There were big-name players committed to big-time universities all around him. So it would have been easy for Jake Buonaiuto of Miller Place to accept being overshadowed at Friday's Long Island Lacrosse Showcase all-star triple-header. Instead, Buonaiuto stepped from the shadows into the spotlight, scoring five goals to lead Suffolk to a 15-10 victory over Nassau in the Rising Seniors Game.
"Coming from a small school like Miller Place, a game like this lets you get some exposure and get noticed," Buonaiuto said.
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With dozens of college coaches seated in lawn chairs along one of the sidelines -- including John Danowski of defending national champion Duke, Dave Pietramala of Johns Hopkins, Seth Tierney of Hofstra and Gordie Purdie of Adelphi -- Buonaiuto would undoubtedly have been subject to much more scrutiny if he hadn't already committed to Division I Bryant University, the school that stunned No. 1 seed Syracuse last month in the NCAA Tournament.
Buonaiuto scored the first two goals of the game as Suffolk raced to a 5-1 advantage. But Nassau scored four straight to tie it late in the second quarter. Suffolk regrouped and scored the next six goals to take full control.
Faceoff specialist Austin Henningsen of Northport, headed to Maryland, scored two goals and added an assist -- all after clean faceoff wins. John Daniggelis (Smithtown East) contributed two goals and an assist as did Matthew Spahr (Comsewogue). Nassau was led by Johns Hopkins commit Alex Concannon (Syosset) who scored three goals. Gordie Purdie (Lynbrook), son of the Adelphi coach, added two goals and an assist and Tim Schmelzinger of Garden City had two goals.
"To play with some of the top players on Long Island was a lot of fun," Buonaiuto said. The fun factor ramped up for him in the second half when Suffolk dominated. His unassisted goal off a solo rip from the slot was part of the winners' 6-0 run. Buonaiuto also scored two straight goals in the fourth quarter, one on a feed from Henningsen and another on a rebound that caromed off the post right onto his stick.
Henningsen's faceoff success provided key additional scoring opportunities for Suffolk. Additionally, a riding defense caused numerous turnovers and even more possessions. "Whoever has the ball more usually wins," Henningsen said. "We probably had possession for three-quarters of the game. It's an honor playing with all these great lacrosse players."
Two of them, Ohio State commit Ryan Bray (Shoreham-Wading River) and North Carolina commit Brian Willetts (Smithtown East) joined Buonaiuto on attack, and drew much of the defensive focus. "He was out there with Bray and Willetts so he got some opportunities," Suffolk coach Desmond Megna (Floyd) said of Buonaiuto. "He doesn't have the big name, but he knows how to finish."
Clean sweep for Suffolk.In the Rising Juniors game, the Sachem North duo of attack Thomas Haun and midfielder Dylan Rhatigan each scored three goals to lead Suffolk to a 13-8 victory. Mac O'Keefe (Syosset) and Joe Madsen (Locust Valley) each scored two goals for Nassau.
In the Rising Sophomore game, Suffolk defeated Nassau, 18-7, as Cam Mulé (Half Hollow Hills West) was one of six players to score two goals. Mulé also had an assist.