Quest continues for three Morris County Teams

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

The final seconds of Chatham’s 9-2 victory over Northern Highlands on Saturday hadn’t ticked off yet when the Cougars turned their thoughts to a Group II title and their probable opponents from Summit.

Redemption from a 12-4 loss to the Hilltoppers in late April was not far from their minds as well as capturing an illusive title for themselves, too.

Three Morris County teams are left, dreaming of glory and state championship hardware on Tuesday.Chatham faces top-ranked and defending champion Summit and its lengthy win streak in a 5 p.m. at Ridge High School for Group II state tournament honors.

Mountain Lakes and Delbarton will try to earn their titles in Livingston. The Lakers host the opener against GlenRidge in a 5 p.m. start for the Group I title. Soon after the Green Wave will try and repel the threat fromSt.Augustine Prep in the nightcap with a game scheduled to start at 7 p.m. to decide the Non Public A title.

Chatham encountered little resistance in its 9-2 victory overNorthern Highlandsand has cruised through the opening rounds of the tournament. The Cougars’ confidence is high and they are playing their best lacrosse, but is their best good enough to topple the Hilltoppers’ juggernaut which has reached 66 consecutive state wins and compiled a 21-0 mark this year.

“They embarrassed us the first game,’’Chatham midfielder Matt Proto said. “Hopefully we can answer them.’’

Chatham will have to find a way to solveSummit’s tricky zone defense. It’s not that the Hilltoppers defense is all that intricate. It’s that they are very good at communicating and executing it. The defenders are big, quick and physical and Jules Godino may be the best defenseman in the state.SummitdismantledSomerville15-2 on Saturday to advance to the final.

However, if Chatham can get the possessions and execute on its own, it can be a competitive contest. Chatham attackman Nick Guida said it simply against any team the Cougars play.

“The more possessions we get, the more were going to have the ball and the more we are going to score,’’ Guida said. “If we can keep the ball out of their hands, that’s just perfect for us.’’

The play of two emerging underclassmen may be crucial in giving the Cougars a chance to win. Sophomore attackman Sam Carson, who was in the midfield when Chatham played Summit last, has given the offense a major boost. Strong and physical, he is capable of hanging in against tough opponents.

Of course, the draws will be crucial with Chatham freshman David Gill in charge of gaining possessions. The Cougars’ offense can’t score if it doesn’t have the ball.Summithas no qualms about being patient on its possessions and running the Chatham defense ragged on a warm afternoon.

On the flip side, all the pressure is on the top-ranked team in the state. The Cougars can play relaxed and loose and give them a game.Chatham feels it has something to prove and will be ready.

“We saw their best game and they didn’t see ours, so we know what to expect from them,’’ Guida said. “They didn’t see ours so were going to bring it to them.’’

Group I

GlenRidge vs.Mountain Lakes

This is another game in which the teams have played earlier in the season. The Lakers emerged with an 8-7 victory on April 26 in Mountain Lakes but they got a scare. The Lakers were up 8-4 when the Ridgers rallied for three late goals to make it close at the finish.

The top-seeded Lakers have been solid in the Group I bracket of the tournament so far. On Saturday,West Essex scored an early goal in the first quarter. Mountain Lakesr esponded with five goals in the second quarter and prevailed with an 8-2 victory. Jon Broome and Andrew Portnoy scored two goals each and Mountain Lakes put on another fabulous defensive display to keep its opponents in check.

Glen Ridge has been stunningly successful this year. The Essex County Tournament champions advanced to the Group I final by taking down Mahwah 10-2 on Saturday.

Goalkeeper Mac Davis and a steadily improving defense have drawn rave reviews. Juniors Jameson Smith (3 goals) and Matt Lander (2 goals, 2 assists) spark the Ridgers on the offensive end.

Non Public A

Delbarton vs.St. Augustine Prep

Is the Green Wave hungry enough? In past years that question would have been ludicrous considering the success the team has had in Non Public A and Tournament of Champions finals. Those doubts began last year and opened up again with Delbarton’s near disaster on Saturday. The Green Wave trailed a goodSt. Joseph’s (Metuchen) team 7-3 before rallying with five fourth-quarter goals to win it. Midfielder Peter McMullen fired a hat trick and Clay Haarmann and Patrick Foley also contributed significantly. Delbarton can’t play games with St. Augustine Prep, considered to be a very dangerous team. The defense anchored by Jack Breit must be ready and goalkeeper John Schissler must be on the top of his game.

St. Augustine defeated Don Bosco Prep, also a good team, 14-5. The Hermits may be one of the first South Jersey teams since Moorestown to legitimately capture a Tournament of Champions crown. A decisive victory over Group III finalist Moorestown is among their key wins.

Steve Pantrello and Mike Sutton scored four goals apiece, Nikko Pantrello had two goals and three assists and goalkeeper Joe Gigantiello stopped nine shots to vaultSt. Augustineinto the Non-Public A final for the second consecutive year. The Hermits lost toSt. Joseph’s (Met.) in last year’s final.

However, Delbarton, the Morris County Tournament champions, plays a tougher schedule. The Green Wave are deep and are capable of superb play, especially on the defensive end. This game has the chance to be one of the most captivating of the tournament.

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About mcvbb

Mark Kitchin is a boys varsity basketball writer for the Morris County New Jersey area

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