Delbarton advances to T of C semifinals

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

BRIDGEWATER– Jack Clarke must be part bloodhound. The Delbarton faceoff midfielder is relentless in his mission to pick up the lacrosse ball on the draw. His tenacity was one of many reasons Delbarton continued its run in the state tournament on Saturday.

The junior midfielder won 10 of 12 draws including five of the first six and the Green Wave parlayed his effort and used those possessions effectively to earn a 6-3 victory over Glen Ridge in a defensive-minded Tournament of Champions quarterfinal round contest held at Basilone Field.

Fourth-seeded Delbarton earned the right to face top-seeded Summit in the semifinal round of the T of C which will be played on Wednesday at 7 p.m. on the campus of Kean University in Union.

The second game will pit third-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan against second-seeded Immaculata. The Panthers toppled Moorestown 15-6 on Saturday.

Senior attackman Clay Haarmann scored twice and midfielders Peter McMullen and Connor Bilby each registered two assists for the Green Wave which took a 4-0 lead at halftime.

Scores by Emmett Arthur, Matt Lander and Jamie Smith helped Glen Ridge mount a second-half rally. The Group I champions also got a good performance from backup keeper Shane Doss, who took over from starter Mac Davis who left after the first quarter because of illness. Doss made nine saves.

Delbarton’s Ben Reynolds (8) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a first-quarter goal in Saturday’s state game.

When it comes to tournament time, winning draws becomes crucial in lacrosse. Clarke’s ability to win the ball himself or get it to teammates helped sustain offensive momentum while keeping the ball out of the hands of their anxious opponents.

“Face off was certainly a concern going into the season,’’ Delbarton coach Chuck Ruebling said. “Jack has worked very hard and has improved quite a bit. He’s a very serious-minded kid.’’

Clarke does a good job of winning the ball and has a number of moves he favors including a quick pick-and-pop that sometimes helps him initiate quick transitions. He also credits his wingmen for being dangerous threats, too. Defenseman Jack Breit is stellar on the circle and has surprised opponents with his ability to pick up ground balls and take them to the cage himself. On the other side Kenny Kieran and Jamie White usually alternate. Both have good speed, a nose for the ball and the smarts to make good decisions with it.

Delbarton’s Jack Clarke won 10 of 12 faceoffs in Saturday Tournament of Champions quarterfinal against Glen Ridge.

Delbarton has been blessed with good faceoff men over the years. What sets Clarke apart is his fierce intensity and dogged persistence. Although he is a specialist (a face off, get off midfielder), he will stay with the play longer then the average face off man. When opposing players think they have the ball secured and start looking upfield– Clarke makes them think again.

“It’s not always the quickest kid that gets the ball,’’ Clarke said. “A lot of the time it’s the kid that goes at it the hardest.’’

Although Delbarton was upset in the early rounds of last year’s playoffs and didn’t reach the Tournament of Champions, this year’s Green Wave played Saturday’s game like the teams of past years. They seemed very much at home on the big stage.

Once they gained possession they were comfortable in settling down their offense, passing the ball around and probing a Glen Ridge defense that had to be a little nervous about its first T of C appearance.

Delbarton scored the first five goals of the game starting with Haarmann’s man up goal with 7:16 left in the first quarter off a Bilby feed. A little over a minute later midfielder Ben Reynolds made it 2-0 on a hard righty shot.

Delbarton’s Jack Breit (1) and Kohl Geibel (26) try to slow down Glen Ridge midfielder Jamie Smith.

The Green Wave continued to win draws and put pressure on the Ridgers’ defense. Senior midfielder McMullen set up a pair of teammates for second-quarter goals. He found Cole Ricciardi on a crease feed from the behind the net with 10:49 left in the half. A little less then two minutes later attackman Patrick Foley was the recipient of a pinpoint pass that he was able to convert.

When John Shaffer, the MVP of the Morris County Tournament, connected on Bilby’s feed with 5:23 left in the third quarter, the Green Wave was leading comfortably.

It took a near miracle to give the Ridgers a spark but that’s what happened when Arthur uncorked a shot that found the back of the Delbarton net with 1.6 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Delbarton midfielder John Shaffer makes a move on Glen Ridge defenseman Pat Johnson on Saturday.

After that goal Glen Ridge found a dose of swagger and confidence that the players had not shown since the first half of their win against Mountain Lakes in Thursday’s Group I final.

Even though Delbarton would win the subsequent faceoffs, Glen Ridge forced quick turnovers and converted its possessions into fourth-quarter goals by Smith and Lander both on hard lefty shots.

However, the Green Wave stunted the Ridgers momentum and Haarmann put the finishing touches on the win by curling from behind the net and firing in a hard righty shot from the left side with 4:07  left to account for the final score.

Now only top-ranked Summit and their gaudy 67 game consecutive victory mark sits between Delbarton and the T of  C title game which will be held next Saturday at Rutgers.

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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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