Miller Place won the battle of prowling Panthers and jousting Jakes yesterday.
By a mere whisker.
Jake Buonaiuto, who had been stalked and slowed by Jake Carlock all afternoon, managed to create enough space to score the winning goal on a low bullet from the left wing with five seconds left that gave Miller Place a 9-8 victory over visiting Babylon in a Suffolk Division II boys lacrosse thriller.
"He was stronger than I expected and he was able to keep up with me," Buonaiuto said of Carlock, a good-hands Stony Brook-bound defensive back who played stellar defense with a long stick against Miller Place's leading scorer. "I popped out, called for it and let it rip. I took that same shot three times. The first one hit the pipe. The second one hit the goalie's shoulder. The third one finally found the net."
Up until then, Carlock had held Buonaiuto, who entered the game with 18 goals, to just one assist. Miller Place gained possession off a loose-ball scramble and called timeout with 1:06 left. "We tried to get movement and find seams," Miller Place coach Keith Lizzi said. "Jake is our No. 1 guy. We worked the ball around and we were looking for him. But whoever it was, we wanted to take the final shot and not give them time to tie it up again."
The dueling Panthers were tied at every number from 1 through 8, with neither team gaining a two-goal lead. It was, in Buonaiuto's words, "a clean game," as well, with not a single penalty being called despite plenty of action.
Because of Carlock's defense, Buonaiuto wasn't involved in much of that action. It was mainly a scoring duel between Army-bound attack Nick Santorelli of Babylon (four goals, two assists) and Marist-bound midfielder Liam Walsh of Miller Place (three goals, one assist).
Miller Place freshman Kevin Gersbeck gave the host Panthers an 8-7 advantage with 2:54 left with a nice solo move that came moments after his perimeter shot beat the goalie but rang off the pipe. Seconds later, the visiting Panthers gained a rare faceoff win (Miller Place's Christian Stalter dominated the draws all game) and Navy-bound middie Ray Wardell converted a pass from Santorelli to tie it at 8. That set up the deciding Panthers vs. Panthers, Jake vs. Jake, confrontation. "I was in the right place at the right time," Buonaiuto said.