Willetts, Balkam help Smithtown East end West Islip's run
Brian Willetts scored six goals and Brian Balkam made 19 saves as host Smithtown East defeated West Islip, 12-4, in a Suffolk Class A quarterfinal that ended the Lions' run of nine county championships and 11 consecutive appearances in the county final.
In the jungle, the mighty jungle that is Class A Long Island lacrosse, the Lion sleeps tonight.
"This is huge for our program and huge for our town to beat West Islip twice in one season,'' said Balkam, a senior who was exceptionally sharp when the Bulls built a 7-1 halftime lead that established their clear superiority.
"This is incredible,'' said Willetts, a sophomore who made a verbal commitment to North Carolina and who showed off a dazzling array of shots in scoring three goals in each half. He also added an assist. "All the respect in the world to West Islip; they have great coaches and a great tradition. But this puts us on the map.''
No. 4 seed Smithtown East (14-3) moves on to face No. 1 seed Ward Melville in a semifinal Friday while West Islip (12-6), which has won five of the previous seven state crowns, goes home early for the first time in more than a decade.
"We haven't been to the semis since 2007,'' East coach Jason Lambert said. "To beat a nine-time county champion is big for us.''
The Brians, along with Joe Saggese (two goals, three assists), came up big for Smithtown East, which beat West Islip, 13-6, April 9. Among Willetts' goals was a solo dash after he intercepted a clearing pass near midfield and raced in for an unassisted score that made it 7-1 with 33 seconds left in the third quarter.
Among Balkam's saves was a spectacular stop against West Islip's star midfielder Nick Aponte (two goals, one assist), who came down the alley untouched.
"My dad was a goalie and he always tells me to make the lacrosse ball a beach ball,'' Balkam said of Kevin Balkam, who starred in the cage for Sachem's 1979 state championship team. "Today I was seeing the ball out of the stick and it looked like a beach ball.''
Lambert said of his goalie, "He's not only our best player, he's our best leader. He's had an All-American year.''