The motto for Smithtown East’s high-powered boys lacrosse team is “everybody eats.” But not everybody feasts like Dan Rooney and not everybody feeds like Connor Desimone.
“They come up with plays on their own,” Smithtown East coach Jason Lambert said after Desimone had three goals and five assists, and Rooney scored six goals to lead the host Bulls to a tough 14-12 victory over Connetquot Saturday in the latest Suffolk I thriller.
“Out of bounds plays, pick plays, and off-ball moves,” Lambert said. “We love to run a two-man game, one lefty (Rooney) and one righty. When we do that, something good happens.”
In a game that left both teams at 10-2, just behind league-leader West Islip (11-1), Desimone assisted on four of Rooney’s goals. “He’s always cutting and I know he’ll always be open,” said Desimone. “In the first half, they were trying to lock me up, but Dan is awesome without the ball.”
The Bulls built a 6-2 lead in the first quarter, then had to answer a four-goal blitz by the Thunderbirds that tied it with 9:30 left in the second quarter. They did just that, scoring four straight in 2:48 for a 10-6 lead. Desimone scored over the shoulder to start the burst, then found Rooney in front for another goal. Mike Latini and Bobby Burns finished the run.
But it didn’t finish off the Thunderbirds. Colin Grippo (four goals, one assist) and Dylan Finazzo scored to make it 10-8 before Rooney scored his fifth of the half to make it 11-8 at the break.
Despite the typically stellar play of faceoff artist Gerard Arceri, who won 19 of 28 draws, the Bulls could not pull away. “They did a great job of picking up ground balls in our defensive end,” Lambert said.
Not surprisingly, Connetquot re-tied the game at 11 late in the third quarter on two goals by Grippo and one by his brother, G.Q.,, who had a hat trick. “Every game is a statement game in our league,” Desimone said.
Rooney made the boldest statement when he won a ground-ball battle and scored on a blast from the right wing to give the Bulls a 12-11 lead with seven seconds left in the third. However, he cost his good friend another assist on the play.
“I mishandled a great pass from Connor,” Rooney said. “I picked up the ball, turned the corner and shot it.”
Arceri won the next faceoff cleanly and found Burns on the left wing for a quick goal and a 13-11 lead. After being blanked for 11:53 of the third quarter, the Bulls scored twice in the final seven seconds. “Those goals were huge,” Lambert said. “Rooney out-toughed their kid for the ball and Burns does what he does — score big goals in big games.”
Desimone scored unassisted after dodging from behind the cage for a 14-11 advantage. G.Q. Grippo brought the Thunderbirds to within two with 7:17 left, but they couldn’t overcome the damage that Rooney and Desimone had done.
“We know each other’s moves,” Rooney said. “There’s eye contact; we don’t need to talk.”