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Mike Bienkowski sparks Islip to its first state lacrosse title

Islip Buccaneers Mike Bienkowski runs away from the

Islip Buccaneers Mike Bienkowski runs away from the Westhill defender during the 2018 Class C boys lacrosse state championship game at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, on Saturday. Credit: Jerome Davis / Jerome Davis

PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Make it a triple crown . . . for the Islip boys lacrosse team.

The Buccaneers rode the six-goal brilliance of Mike Bienkowski to a wire-to-wire, 9-3 victory over Westhill Saturday night in the state Class C championship played at St. John Fisher College.

Islip won the first boys state lacrosse crown in school history, adding a third jewel to the trophy case after also capturing its first county and Long Island championships.

“It’s a feeling like no other — to be the first team that did it is awesome,” said Bienkowski, a senior captain “They’ll never be another year like it.”

Bienkowski had a lot to do with that. He scored the first three goals of the game, then added another in the second quarter for a 4-2 halftime lead. His fifth in the third quarter, sandwiched around a pair by sophomore Joe Juengerkes made it 7-2. Bienkowski added his 49th of the season with 10:47 left to make it 8-3.

“Scoring the first couple of goals got my confidence through the roof,” Bienkowski said. “And it boosted the team. We all shoot with confidence. It could’ve been any one of us, but today it was me.”

That’s no coincidence, according to coach Keith Scheidel. “He’s a difference maker. His speed allows him to get his hands free,” Scheidel said. “And he can shoot it on the run with his left or right hand.”

Islip (19-2) outshot Westhill, 33-14, and at one time lead 30-6 in that department, a measure of its ball-control offense — Nick Barry won 10 of 14 faceoffs — and lock-down man-to-man defense. “We wanted to win our defensive matchups and we did,” Scheidel said. “That’s why they didn’t get a lot of shots.”

Senior co-captain Ethan Rall led a defense that limited Westhill to five shots through the first three periods before the desperate Warriors fired away in the fourth. “Our defense knows what it has to do — win our matchups,” Rall said. “When we do that, we don’t even have to slide. No one can dodge with our six guys on defense.”

And no one can deny the magic of this historic season. “We knew we were the preseason No. 1 seed and we had a lot of guys back so we thought it would be a special team if we stayed healthy,” Scheidel said. “It’s a special group of seniors and we just wanted to keep playing.”

It was an emotional group as well, with several players embracing family and friends and sharing tears of joy after the game.

“This is one of the best feelings in the world,” Rall said. “The seniors have been playing together since we were in first grade. They are my brothers. We’ll remember this for the rest of our life and we’ll talk about it when we come back for reunions.

“It’s crazy to think that it’s over,” Rall added, “but at least it ended with a bang.”

Actually three bangs.

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