It was mentioned once, in a preseason meeting in March.
“We knew that to get to the top of the mountain, we’d have to go through those guys,” Garden City boys lacrosse coach Steve Finnell said of Victor, which had won the three previous state titles, two in Class B and one in Class A. “We knew they’d be here again, trying to make it four in a row. We talked about it just that one time.”
Then it was all about action not words for Garden City (18-3), which hit a few speed bumps and had to navigate a pair of treacherous curves in the playoffs. But the Trojans won their first state Class B title since 2013 and seventh in program history when James Basile’s rising laser from the right wing with 1.6 seconds left resulted in a 7-6 win over Victor.
It was Basile’s third of the game and 20th of the season, a season that didn’t look like it would end in joyful delirium after a 7-4 loss to arch-rival Manhasset in the Woodstick Classic on April 28. “It was a wakeup call,” said two-way midfielder Tyler Wuchte, a senior leader. “We thought we were hot stuff.”
The defense remained the team’s strength, with juniors Colin Hart and Danny Boccafola leading a unit that along with senior goalie Teddy Dolan yielded a Long Island-best 3.9 goals per game. It was the offense that needed to catch up.
It did, averaging 14 goals a game in a five-game winning streak before a tense 3-2 overtime victory over South Side in the Nassau semifinals. The Trojans responded by blitzing Manhasset, 15-5, in the Nassau final, erasing the Woodstick loss. The offense continued to support the defense in a 12-3 Long Island championship win over Harborfields and a 14-4 win over John Jay-Cross River in the state semifinals.
Just as Finnell had predicted in March, Victor was waiting. The Trojans looked to be in control at 6-4 with a minute left, but Victor scored twice to tie it with 8.5 seconds left. That’s when Garden City turned to ace faceoff artist Justin Coppola (12 for 14 in the title game). Coppola won the draw, advanced the ball to Liam Muldoon, who whipped a pass to Basile for the winner.
Muldoon led the Trojans with 39 goals and 63 points. Fellow seniors Kyle Steinbach (26 goals) and Cole Dutton (16 goals, 10 assists) received help from junior Trevor Yeboah-Kodie, the all-Long Island running back, who added 21 goals and 17 assists.
“We hit the reset button after the Woodstick,” Finnell said. “We knew we had to play better. Look, we almost lost to South Side. But our seniors showed great leadership and were very coachable. We made the adjustments we needed to make.”
As Wuchte noted, “We always pride ourselves on our defense, and I think it’s the best on Long Island. But after the Woodstick, the coaches made so many important changes to the offense.”
And now Garden City is the victor.
ROAD TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP
Nassau B playoffs
Long Beach, 20-3
South Side, 3-2 (OT)
Long Island championship
John Jay-Cross River, 14-4