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Matt Grillo, Ward Melville can’t miss in state Class A semifinal victory

Matt Grillo drives to the goal against Niskayuna

Matt Grillo drives to the goal against Niskayuna during state Class A lacrosse semifinal on Wednesday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

In last Saturday’s Long Island championship game victory over Massapequa, Ward Melville was the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. “We were a little off,” attack Matt Grillo said.

In Wednesday night’s state Class A semifinals, Ward Melville was more than a little ‘on.’ The Patriots straightened out whatever was wrong and turned into the gang that couldn’t miss. Grillo scored five goals and Dylan Pallonetti, Zach Hobbes, Trey Berry and Malachy McAvoy scored two each in an 18-2 pounding of Niskayuna.

Ward Melville (20-1), the defending state champions, will defend its title against perennial power West Genesee in the state A title game at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday at St. John Fisher College in Rochester.

“We worked on our shooting in practice. I wasn’t happy with how we shot it against Massapequa,” coach Jay Negus said. “We try to put the kids in good spots to be successful and they were excellent tonight. Very unselfish and we shot great.”

Ward Melville scored the first five goals — two by Pallonetti, and one each by Hobbes, Liam Davenport and Lucas Flynn. After the Silver Swords finally broke through, they got grilled. Grillo scored the next three goals — two on turnaround lasers and another on a scoop-and-score scenario off a loose ball. McAvoy hit a turnaround shot with 45 seconds left to provide a 9-1 first-quarter lead.

It was all over but the counting. Grillo was precise with a low-to-high blast from the left wing midway through the third and Hobbes, who like Grillo had four ground balls, scored on a feed from Grillo to make it 11-1 at the half.

Running time was inevitable and was achieved with 5:54 left in the third when Berry scored unassisted on the run to make it 14-2 and hit provide the requisite 12-goal margin. The clock didn’t stop except for the quarter break the rest of the game. That would be unusual for an early-season tuneup against a patsy. But against a team that was 19-1 entering the game in a state semifinal is rarefied air indeed.

“It’s crazy,” Grillo said. “We were hoping to win but we didn’t think it would be like this. But we have great players all over the field. We played together on offense and defense and got people open.”

Mike Giaquinto won 16 of 20 draws before resting in the fourth quarter and gobbled up seven ground balls to trigger numerous scoring opportunities. The Patriots also played their usual airtight defense with Ethan Larson, Frank Ciniglio and Alex Mazzone forming a nice wall in front of Collin Krieg, who made seven saves.

But on this night, the offense grabbed center stage. “It’s definitely contagious. Once we start rolling, that breeds confidence,” Negus said. The coach was a straight shooter, too.

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