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Willetts, Balkam help Smithtown East end West Islip's run

Smithtown East's Brian Willetts scored six goals against

Smithtown East's Brian Willetts scored six goals against West Islip. (May 21, 2013) Credit: Daniel De Mato

Two kids named Brian, who eventually will be college teammates at North Carolina, combined Tuesday to dethrone the premier high school lacrosse program on Long Island.

Brian Willetts scored six goals and Brian Balkam made 19 saves as host Smithtown East defeated West Islip, 12-4, in a Suffolk Class A quarterfinal that ended the Lions' run of nine county championships and 11 consecutive appearances in the county final.

In the jungle, the mighty jungle that is Class A Long Island lacrosse, the Lion sleeps tonight.

"This is huge for our program and huge for our town to beat West Islip twice in one season,'' said Balkam, a senior who was exceptionally sharp when the Bulls built a 7-1 halftime lead that established their clear superiority.

"This is incredible,'' said Willetts, a sophomore who made a verbal commitment to North Carolina and who showed off a dazzling array of shots in scoring three goals in each half. He also added an assist. "All the respect in the world to West Islip; they have great coaches and a great tradition. But this puts us on the map.''

No. 4 seed Smithtown East (14-3) moves on to face No. 1 seed Ward Melville in a semifinal Friday while West Islip (12-6), which has won five of the previous seven state crowns, goes home early for the first time in more than a decade.

"We haven't been to the semis since 2007,'' East coach Jason Lambert said. "To beat a nine-time county champion is big for us.''

The Brians, along with Joe Saggese (two goals, three assists), came up big for Smithtown East, which beat West Islip, 13-6, April 9. Among Willetts' goals was a solo dash after he intercepted a clearing pass near midfield and raced in for an unassisted score that made it 7-1 with 33 seconds left in the third quarter.

Among Balkam's saves was a spectacular stop against West Islip's star midfielder Nick Aponte (two goals, one assist), who came down the alley untouched.

"My dad was a goalie and he always tells me to make the lacrosse ball a beach ball,'' Balkam said of Kevin Balkam, who starred in the cage for Sachem's 1979 state championship team. "Today I was seeing the ball out of the stick and it looked like a beach ball.''

Lambert said of his goalie, "He's not only our best player, he's our best leader. He's had an All-American year.''

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