BUFFALO – If they keep this up, Kyle Keenan and James Pannell of Smithtown West will be finishing each other’s sentences by the time they graduate high school. For now, they just finish each other’s passes. Familiarity breeds content.
The pair combined for eight points and hooked up on two scoring plays during a decisive third quarter as the Long Island men’s scholastic lacrosse team defeated Western New York, 10-4, on Thursday at Canisius College.
“Just like high school,” said Keenan, whose father Sean, the Bulls’ coach, watched from the stands. “We’ll look to pass, dodge or re-dodge. We know each other’s moves from high school, and we’ve been playing together since the sixth grade.”
Keenan scored three goals with two assists, while Pannell, whose brother Rob was Cornell’s leading scorer this season, had a goal and two assists. “You can look at our high school points and probably half of them are off each other’s feeds,” said Pannell of the two Newsday All-Long Island second-team selections.
Keenan fed Kevin Wendel of East Islip for the game’s first goal and took a pass from Tom Gordon of Garden City to make it 3-0 seven minutes into the game. Gordon, however, hit three pipes in the first half and Long Island managed to blast five off either a side post or crossbar and led only 3-2 at the break.
“We kept getting opportunities and we kept shooting,” said Long Island and Sachem North coach Jay Mauro.
With Jake Froccaro of Port Washington dominating the faceoffs in the third quarter, Long Island suddenly started converting nearly every scoring chance. Froccaro won the opening faceoff and seconds later found Brandon Gamblin of Wantagh for a goal. Froccaro did it again on the next faceoff, this time finding Keenan, who fired to Pannell at the right crease for Long Island’s second goal in 14 seconds.
“I always know that’s where he’ll be,” said Keenan. Five minutes later, Pannell knew where Keenan was – running the left lane on a fastbreak. That goal made it 7-2. Pannell hit a streaking Michael Andreassi of Sachem North to complete 5-0 third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Gordon finally missed the pipe and hit the net on a turn-around low rocket off a pass from Keenan that completed Long Island’s scoring.
The share-the-ball offense was complemented by a tight defense, including another Smithtown West player, Jordan Stevens, and some artful goaltending by Zach Oliveri. “From the get-go, I wanted to see the ball and make that first save early,” the Connetquot second-team All-Long Island goalie said. “Our man-zone defense was great. The kept most of the shots outside and that gave me the confidence to stop the ones inside.”
Oliveri was sharp late, ensuring Western New York, which featured three Division I prospects at midfield and attack, would not mount a comeback. On one sequence, he stopped a breakaway and followed that up with a brilliant one-on-one save in front. “This is big. We want to win the gold,” Oliveri said. “Coming in, we know there’s a target on our backs. We’re representing the Island, our schools and our community. It’s a pride thing. Long Island is a hotbed."
Thursday, Smithtown West was sizzling.