Prep, L-S turn in another playoff classic

DANVERS, Mass. -- St. John’s Prep and Lincoln-Sudbury are no strangers to each other when it comes to the Division 1 boys’ lacrosse tournament.

Wednesday’s quarterfinal at the Prep marked the third straight season in which the teams had met in the playoffs.

Even though the regular season was a little different for each of the sides, as both had to claw their way into the tournament in the final weeks, they produced yet another memorable postseason match-up. The defending state champion Eagles and the upstart Warriors again didn’t disappoint.

But L-S found itself in an all too familiar situation as ninth-seeded Prep again put an end to the Warriors’ season with a 10-8win.

“We’re getting to know them pretty well just in terms of seeing them in the postseason the last few years,” Eagles head coach John Roy said after ousting L-S from the tournament for a third-straight year. “Coach [Brian] Vona’s an excellent coach. We had to completely disregard the game earlier this season. We knew that they were going to be prepared and fired up.”

After falling behind, 2-1, in the first quarter, Prep (13-7) came back to take the lead in the second with two goals from John Farrow within a two-minute span. The senior midfielder tallied two unassisted goals off the dodge.

But the Warriors (11-8) reclaimed the lead before the half. Dan Delaney ripped one from 20 yards out to tie the score before Reed Spencer provided L-S with a 4-3 lead with just over a minute remaining.

The Eagles controlled play for the majority of the third quarter, when they ripped off three straight goals from Colin Blackwell, Matt Scalise and Dan Mini to take a 6-4 lead.

It was then Vona made an adjustment to exploit a hole in Prep’s defense.

“They were coming cross-crease and we weren’t taking advantage of it in the first half and we told our kids what was there,” Vona said. “Again, it was a couple young kids who got it done.”

L-S had the cross-crease pass working on Connor Hall’s tally from Colby Hall with 1:16 remaining in the third. It also spilled over into the fourth with Henry Guild (2 goals) banking in a feed from Spencer (1 G, 2A). Connor Hall added his second goal of the game with 7:35 remaining to give the Warriors an 8-6 lead.

From there, Prep was the team making the adjustments and finding the high-quality scoring opportunities. That is despite having two of their top guns — Blackwell and senior midfielder Jimmy O’Connell — bottled up by the L-S defense.

“They were playing hard on Jimmy [O’Connell] and Colin [Blackwell],” Mini said, “so we had a few people step up, like Drew O’Connell and myself. It feels good. I’ve been working hard during the year.”

Mini scored two of his three goals in the fourth quarter, including the eventual game-winner which came on a feed from Scalise with 3:52 to play.

The contributions from a variety of sources made the victory all that much better

“We actually ran plays with different people at different positions yesterday because Colin [Blackwell is] usually behind [the cage], but he wasn’t able to do that,” said Scalise, who led all players with five points (3 G, 2A).

Those varied formations also saw Scalise with the ball on his stick in a pivotal moment.

While trying to hold on to their one-goal advantage and bleed the clock, Scalise provided a game-clinching goal with 46 seconds left. After making a successful defensive stand, Prep turned the attack up-field in transition with Scalise leading the charge. He made a mad dash toward the cage, before kicking back out and then finally beating his defender off the dodge. Scalise released his shot from 20 yards out and found nothing but twine for his third goal of the game.

“We’ve working really hard in practice and things seemed to click yesterday,” Scalise said. “Today, we started off slow and we couldn’t possess well, but the defense helped us out and made some big stops.”

The Eagles will now face fifth seed Needham in the D1 semifinal on Saturday.

On the other hand, for the Warriors, it was the ending to a promising season that saw their 11 underclassmen who saw the field Wednesday take big strides forward.

“Those are young kids and I’m really proud of they fought,” Vona said. “And that’s a testament to the seniors, too, because they played hard through it all. Our kids love each other and they play hard for each other.

“I’m proud of them. [The season] was an absolute success.”