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Defender Mike Gomez turns scorer to propel Hills East to quarterfinal win in lacrosse

Mike Gomez of Hills East, left, gets congratulated

Mike Gomez of Hills East, left, gets congratulated by teammate Sean Lulley after drawing a penalty in the first quarter of the Suffolk Class A quarterfinals against Commack at Half Hollow Hills East on Friday, May 19, 2017.  Credit: James Escher

For his next trick . . .

Half Hollow Hills East defenseman Mike Gomez had never scored a goal in his three previous varsity seasons, but he scored two on Friday and said he even dared to think “hat trick” in the fourth quarter. “I guess I’m a little older,” the senior said with a grin.

Older and bolder. Gomez not only provided an offensive lift but played solid defense and collected several important ground balls to help host No. 4 Hills East hold off No. 5 Commack, 11-9, in a Suffolk Class A quarterfinal.

“I just take what they give me,” said Gomez, who has scored seven goals in his senior season. “We have so many threats, they leave me alone.”

That proved to be a mistake. Gomez’s coast-to-coast trips helped the Thunderbirds improve to 14-3. They will face No. 1 Ward Melville at 4 p.m. Thursday at Islip High School in the semifinals.

“When Mike feels we need a boost, he’ll take control,” Hills East coach Gordon Hodgson said. “You have to respect him as an offensive threat. It puts pressure on the defense because we have a lot of other weapons.”

The most potent of those is senior midfielder Sean Lulley, who had three goals and four assists. Lulley scored perhaps the game’s biggest goal when he made a solo dodge from behind the cage to provide a 10-8 lead with 7:53 left.

“My defender played me tough. He was timing his checks,” Lulley said of his last goal. “So I was waiting for him to throw a check and used a hesitation move to beat him. Then I shot it top side.”

Hat tricksters Lulley and Mike Monitto appreciated Gomez’s offensive contributions. “He does everything for us,” Lulley said. “He takes some faceoffs, he scores, he clears, he guards the other team’s best player. He’s like a Swiss Army Knife for us.”

Goalie Kyle Bockelman was sharp as a tack himself with 16 saves. He made a huge stop early in the fourth quarter with East clinging to a 9-8 lead and playing man-down for two minutes after committing a check-to-the-head foul.

“He came up big. He was seeing the ball well,” Hodgson said. “He was the difference.”

Joey Elarde had three goals and Kevin Snyder had two goals and an assist for Commack (11-6).

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