Delbarton stuns Summit to advance to T of C FInal

By Mark Kitchin


UNION— Installing offensive wrinkles or a tricky zone defense for a lacrosse team during state play is one thing, but to have players execute those changes flawlessly in possibly the biggest game of their lives is another matter.

Delbarton showed they had the poise and the confidence to pull off such a feat and the Green Wave did it against one of the best teams in the state.

Senior attackman Sean Donnelly and senior midfielder John Shaffer scored two goals apiece and Delbarton used a stingy zone defense and a strong performance from goalkeeper John Schisler to stun Summit 5-1 in the semifinal round of the Tournament of Champions held on the turf at Kean University on Wednesday.

Kevin Lewis added an early goal and Schisler made seven saves for Delbarton (16-6) which plays Bridgewater-Raritan on Saturday for the Tournament of Champions title.

Undefeated Bridgewater-Raritan edged Ridgewood 8-7 in three overtimes to advance to the final. The championship game will be played at Kean Universityon Saturday night following the Mendham-Moorestown girls lacrosse final.

Austin Carbone scored the lone goal forSummit, last year’s T of C finalist.

The win avenged a Delbarton loss to Summit in the regular season and a defeat in last year’s T of C semifinal. It will be Delbarton’s first appearance in the title game since the 2009 tournament final loss againstSummit

Delbarton’s John Shaffer (23) and Kevin Lewis (31) celebrate Lewis’ first quarter goal in Wednesday’s tournament game.

“The defense was tremendous,’’ Shaffer said. “Holding Summit to one goal is pretty amazing. If someone told me coming in that we’d hold Summit to one goal, I’d say ‘no way’. They did a heck of a job and Schisler did an amazing job.’’

“We had to come out harder and work a lot harder than they did,’’ Donnelly added. “We wanted it more than they did and that’s what helped us win.’’

Delbarton’s combination of a tremendous start on offense and a debilitating zone defense put Summit on its heels for much of the first half.  The Hilltoppers played much better in the second half, but they still couldn’t penetrate a thicket of active Green Wave defenders that thwarted Summit’s efforts at nearly every opportunity.

 “We just shut them down,’’ Schisler said. “We shut their whole offense down and it was great to see. We’ve been practicing zone for the whole season. We’ve been kind of saving it for the playoffs.’’

Schisler gave close defenders Will Reynolds, Kohl Geibel, Brendan Huston and other defensive-minded teammates to numerous to name credit for constantly coming out and contesting Summit shooters and making it difficult for the Hilltoppers to get open looks or penetrate to the crease. His Delbarton teammates credit Schisler for stopping nearly everything he saw.

 “He was amazing,’’ Donnelly said. “One goal against Summit– that’s unheard of. Anytime he made a save it made our confidence even higher. It built us up. He did everything we could ask for.’’

Delbarton jumped off to a quick start by scoring early and often. After gaining possession, the Green Wave offense moved the ball fast and hard against Summit which built its reputation over the years for its own aggressive zone defense.

Delbarton’s Connor Bilby (9) notched a pair of assists to help the Green Wave build an early lead.

“I think we were ready to go,’’ Shaffer said. “We came off the bus. We had a lot of energy. We were confident. We worked hard. We had two hard practices on Monday and Tuesday and our confidence was through the roof. We knew that they were going to come out hard, too.’’

The Delbarton offense knew that lazy passes wouldn’t work and might initiate turnovers and fast break scores for their opponents. They strung seven-eight-nine crisp passes at a time looking for an opening and a chance to strike.

“We didn’t want to float them into the zone because they had their sticks up,’’ Shaffer said. “They are good at that. If there were turnovers, we wanted them to be our fault. We did well today. We kept the ball for most of the possessions.

Kevin Lewis connected on a Cole Riccardi pass just 10:43 into the contest to give the Green Wave an early 1-0 lead. A little more than three minutes later they had the ball again. This time after a lot of work, Delbarton connected when Donnelly knocked in a rebound of a shot that bounced off the stick of the Summit goalie.

“We were ready to go right from the first whistle,’’ Donnelly said. “I guess it was intensity. We just wanted it so much.’’

Delbarton had possession of the ball most of the first quarter. Some of that credit belongs to face-off middie Austin Williams. The team’s All-American helped the Green Wave build on its early lead by winning 5 of 7 first-half faceoffs. Capturing the draws helped Delbarton build momentum for its scoring runs. Williams finished with 8 of 10 for the game.

Summit defender Will Weber loses his footing while Delbarton’s Connor Bilby (9) and Kieran Kenny (7) follow the ball.

The Green Wave added three more goals in the second half. Shaffer put in a Bilby feed with 9:35 left in the second quarter to make it a 3-0 game.

“I got lucky,’’ Shaffer said. “There were a lot of guys working off ball for me — moving the ball, moving it one more (pass) for me. It’s to the credit of most of those guys out there and I was fortunate enough to get a shot.’’

Delbarton gained possession again, this time Bilby found fellow attackman Donnelly with a chance to put the ball in the net

“That feed — that’s what we were looking for and it was unbelievable,’’ Donnelly said. “It was from Bilby. It was perfect. I was telling him I was open. It came right to me and I just put it in.

“All year he’s been feeding me. We have a great connection together and it’s all I can ask for. We are good friends off the field and it helps on the field.’’

Donnelly’s goal with 8:05 left in the quarter made it 4-0. Shaffer would add another one, off a Thomas Fowler pass with 6:57 left to make it 5-0 at the half

John Schisler came up huge in the net for Delbarton on Wednesday. The junior keeper stopped seven shots.

Shockingly, it was more than enough. Summit made some adjustments on their defense which slowed down the Green Wave attack and give the Hilltoppers offense a chance to catch up.

Summit’s lone goal came in the third quarter courtesy of Austin Carbone who tip-toed near the crease and slipped in a tight angle shot with 1:32 left to complete the scoring. Apart from that goal, Summit could not get the quality shots it needed to contest.

The frustration showed for the Hilltoppers, especially on one play early in the fourth quarter when the state’s Player of the Year, Summit attackman Nick Kilkowski, tried to dodge past three Delbarton defenders to put a shot on goal. It never got there and the Hilltoppers couldn’t generate enough quality opportunities to threaten the Green Wave advantage

Delbarton defenseman Kohl Geibel (1) and the rest of the Green Wave defense perplexed Summit with its zone scheme.

Now Delbarton returns to the Tournament of Champions finals for the first time since 2009. The Green Wave players, who if they didn’t graduate last week are finally out of school, will have to happily delay their vacations a few more days for a chance to do something special.

“I’ve never been in one (a state lacrosse final),’’ Shaffer said. “I’ve only watched them and I’ve looked up to the guys on the Delbarton teams that were in them. Coming to Delbarton there is so much tradition — winning Tournament of Champions, winning state championships — at least for right now to be on one of those teams is amazing.’’








About mcvbb

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

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