Two hours before Wednesday night’s Suffolk Class A championship game, Ward Melville’s players learned they had moved up to No. 1 in the nation, according to Inside Lacrosse. “Gave us a little extra juice,” Dylan Pallonetti said.
As if the Patriots needed more incentive. The defending state champions had lost only one game this season — to Half Hollow Hills East, their opponent Tuesday night. “We remembered that feeling when we lost to them and we came out with some fire,” Pallonetti said.
So a fired-up, juiced-up No. 1-seeded Ward Melville team shot the lights out, blitzing No. 3 Hills East, 14-5, to win their third straight county championship and 26th overall in 40 appearances in the title game.
Pallonetti scored five goals, Matt Grillo had three, faceoff whiz Mike Giaquinto won the first eight draws and 18 of 23 overall and Alex Mazzone led a defense that held the Thunderbirds to one second-half goal.
Ward Melville (18-1) will face Massapequa for the Long Island Class A championship on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Hofstra.
“Our game plan was to be unselfish on offense and move the ball. Look for one more pass,” coach Jay Negus said.
The Patriots were precise on all fronts. Giaquinto got the train moving with a clean faceoff win and goal to tie it at 1, sparking a 5-0 run. Pallonetti and Grillo also scored during that first-quarter burst.
But the T-birds (15-4) showed some thunder, too. Mike Monitto scored twice, sandwiched around a goal by Brett Martin, as Hills East trailed only 5-4 after one quarter.
But Mazzone and Co. turned up the defense, forcing turnovers and limiting shots on goal. That, coupled with all those extra possessions courtesy of Giaquinto, was too much to overcome. Hills East’s defenseman Mike Gomez scored an unassisted goal early in the third quarter to make it 7-5, but the Patriots answered with the last four goals of the third quarter and all three in the fourth.
“When we’re clicking like that on offense, there’s no better feeling,” said Grillo, who has scored 59 goals. “We’re not dodging to get a shot but we’re dodging to get open and look for someone else. We shot it very well tonight.”
Especially Pallonetti, a 49-goal scorer who hit from all angles — down the alley, left wing, right wing, high and low. “I’m usually picking a side to shoot at,” he said. “We were looking for each other and we hit our shots. It’s fun playing in an offense like this.”