By Gene Morris
LILacrosseNews.com, Posted 4/19/12
You may have seen recent rankings that have West Islip as the consensus number two team in Suffolk County behind Smithtown West. If so, Lions junior midfielder Nick Aponte had a message to deliver after the Lions came from behind to beat Smithtown West – the consensus number one – 7-6 on the road in overtime Thursday night.
“(This game) says that we’re always on top,” Aponte said. “We’re not leaving and we’re not going anywhere. You can rank us anywhere -they’re supposed to be the best in the county but we always come out all-out.”
The Lions (7-1) have been on top of Suffolk County Class A for the past seven years. Last season Smithtown West (8-1) was within inches of knocking them off in the County Championship game. This game was just as close.
Aponte capped a fourth quarter rally with a shot that barely trickled over the goalline with just over four seconds remaining. Jon Reese then won the overtime face off and took a feed from Tom Moore – who had two first half goals – to secure the win for the Lions.
“My team right from the get go, we said ‘48 minutes of a street fight,” West Islip head coach Scott Craig said. “You’re going to get knocked down and you’re going to get punched in the face – you better get off the deck and you better keep scoring.”
This was a low scoring defensive battle, which came as a surprise considering the firepower of both offenses. The Lions nearly had to go without Aponte – their catalyst and arguably their most talented offensive player – because of a shoulder injury.
“He didn’t give us a full practice yesterday and he didn’t play two days ago,” Craig said. “It’s been getting better and better everyday. From Saturday morning on we knew it was day-to-day.”
Aponte hardly showed any ill effects, scoring twice and helping to run the West Islip offense. But even the tough football player wasn’t exactly sure what to expect coming out with the injury on Thursday night.
When asked if the thought that he might not be able to play against Smithtown West crossed his mind, Aponte smiled, paused and shrugged his shoulders. “You know what, I have a brace on, I have all this stuff on, but this game, I can’t miss it,” he said. “It’s the biggest game of our season. With the adrenaline going you don’t feel anything. I wasn’t going to miss this game.”
His goal with just over four seconds remaining came on a fractured play that he created on his own, something that did not surprise Craig.
“Nicky is an athlete with an attitude,” Craig said. “He will never do anything totally orthodox but he will make plays that you just don’t understand how he could have possibly made that play. That’s who he is.”
After controlling the ball to the right of goaltender Ryan Adler the Lions set a pick for Aponte. Craig left it up to Aponte to decide whether to go over the top or under the pick. When he went under Craig said he expected Aponte to feed the ball, but with little time remaining on the clock the midfielder went for goal.
“I got it at the last minute so I didn’t have enough time to go over and they slid and I just pulled over my stick and tried to dive towards the (goal) and it went between – it actually hit (goalie Ryan Adler’s) shorts – that slowed it down but then it trickled in,” Aponte said.
Ryan Keenan had two goals and an assist for Smithtown West and Christian Zawadzki scored twice.
The Lions were able to make big plays when they needed, which is something they’ve been doing for the past decade. Although they might not have had as many believers early in the season as in past years they showed Thursday night that they are again the team to beat in Suffolk County.
“It was a character game,” Craig said. “More than anything else it shows don’t count us out. Maybe we are or aren’t the most talented team in the county but I can tell you we are going to fight you tooth and nail for what’s on the field.”
West Islip 7, Smithtown West 6, OT
Smithtown West: 2-1-1-2-0-6
West Islip: 1-2-1-2-1-7
Ryan Keenan: 2 goals, 1 assist; Christian Zawadzki: 2 goals; Alex Dodge: 1 goal; James Pannell: 1 goal; Matt Schultz, 2 assists
Ryan Adler: 8 saves
Nick Aponte, 2 goals; Tom Moore, 2 goals, 1 assist; Jon Reese, 1 goal; Brendan Smith, 1 goal; Ryan Wieczorek, 1 goal.
Jack Kelly: 7 saves