Ward Melville overpowers West Genesee to win state Class A boys lacrosse title
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PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A perfect season and a near-perfect game were sealed with a kiss.
Ward Melville senior midfielder Jack Bruckner placed an emphatic smooch on the championship plaque after he and his teammates showed no love -- or mercy -- for the winningest program in New York State.
The Patriots demolished West Genesee, 16-4, Saturday in the state Class A championship game at St. John Fisher College near Rochester.
"It feels amazing. I've never felt more proud in my life," Bruckner said. "After the game, we had guys on the team crying because they're upset that we're breaking up after this.
"It's kind of like a relationship. We're all real tight. We're proud that we did it. It was pretty emotional. It really was. But it's a very good emotion. We're happy but at the same time we're sad."
Think how West Genesee must feel! The team from Syracuse has won 15 state titles, the most of any team, but the Wildcats not only were beaten but watched as most of the fourth quarter was played with a running clock. That happens rarely, and only when a team is ahead by at least 12 goals.
"I've been coaching at Ward Melville for 32 years and I think this is the best game I've ever seen a Ward Melville team play," said Patriots coach Mike Hoppey, who announced his retirement after the game. "To come in and have running time against a great program like West Genesee and get to play all our players was a tremendous accomplishment."
There were many who helped Ward Melville complete a 22-0 season and win its first state title since 2000, its first under Hoppey and the eighth in school history.
Brendan Hegarty, the game's offensive MVP, had four goals and an assist. Jake Kepes added three goals and two assists, Christian Mazzone had two goals and three assists and Bruckner contributed two goals and two assists.
Daniel Decker led a stifling Ward Melville defense that gobbled up more than twice as many ground balls as West Genesee (15-6). He scored two transition goals and was named defensive MVP.
"This was really a statement game," said Hegarty, who closed the third quarter with a low-to-high blast that ripped into the net with four-tenths of a second left, making it 15-3 and sending the game into running time. "We look it at like everyone on this offense can score. If one of us isn't having a big day, someone else picks up the slack. Today, everyone had a good day."
The statements started early. Ward Melville scored six goals in the first quarter, two by Bruckner and two by Hegarty, and five more in the second quarter for an 11-2 halftime lead.
Included in those flurries were goals seven seconds apart by Danny Bucaro and Kepes and nine seconds apart by Mazzone and Decker.
"We had a good feeling about this game after practice," Mazzone said of the Patriots' Friday night session at 7 o'clock after arriving by bus from Long Island at 5 p.m. "We wanted to play our best game yet and we did. We were flying to ground balls and we showed the world. This season has been absolutely magical."
Bruckner performed some individual wizardry with a no-look, back-to-the-goal low shot between his legs.
"We came out with the intention of going 48 minutes as hard as we could," Bruckner said. "A lot of the seniors left it all out on the field because it's the last time we'll ever put on a Ward Melville jersey, so it meant a lot to us. We feel really special now."