Kinnelon throttles Morris Knolls to advance in MCT

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

KINNELON – Winning isn’t easy but executing in a simpler manner can make it easier to succeed.

The Kinnelon became a little more direct in its approach against Morris Knolls in an opening round Morris County Tournament game. The reminder was a good lesson learned for the Colts, who have big dreams.

Sophomore attackman Matt Morreale had four goals and one assist and attackman Ryan O’Keefe registered a hat trick to lift Kinnelon to a 16-3 victory over Morris Knolls in opening round Morris County Tournament action on Monday.

Brian Gnad added two goals and four assists and Joe Neggia and Nick Labanca also contributed a pair of goals for the fifth-seeded Colts (7-6). Kinnelon advances to play the winner of Madison-Morristown in the quarterfinal round contest on Thursday.

Ryan Hanright scored twice and Andy Consales scored off a Robbie McCormick feed for 12th-seeded Morris Knolls (8-7).

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Kinnelon’s Dom Usinowitz escapes a swarm of Morris Knolls defenders on Monday. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

The Colts took a 3-1 lead into the second quarter before receiving six goals from four different players to open up a 9-3 advantage at the half.

At halftime Kinnelon coach Kevin Kelly talked to his players about making the right pass and the proper play, especially on the fast break. Although it may not have been the complete reason that the Colts finished the game on a 7-0 run, the common-sense reminder didn’t hurt.

“Lacrosse can be a pretty simple game if you just make those easy passes,’’ Gnad said. “We just work hard. When we do that we are getting easy goals. I had a couple today I didn’t do much for. I was just finding open space.’’

As the Colts progress in tournament play, it’s that type of advice that might make the difference between winning and losing against a tougher foe.

“I just try to tell them to make the simple play,’’ Kelly said. “You don’t need the highlight reel pass every single time down the field. Let the play develop. We were forcing it because we thought the guy was open not realizing that it’s a tough play to make, to handle (the ball) and get the good shot off.

“They did it three or four times and it didn’t work. When they made the simple play it might not have been that pass, but it was the second or third pass after it that we got the goal from. A couple of sophomores did it and I’m not going to stop coaching because of the score. They have to learn.’’

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Kinnelon’s Ryan O’Keefe gets off a shot in first half action in the opening round MCT game. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Over the years the Colts seem to like to make things difficult on themselves and then shock fans and opponents alike by overcoming its obstacles. This year Kinnelon started the season 1-5. However, the Kinnelon players don’t seem to mind the slow beginning as long as they are on a roll when it counts – tournament time.

“We’re playing some of the best teams in the state,’’ Gnad said. “We played Don Bosco; we played Bergen (Catholic). Those are teams that test us and hopefully it will pay off in the end. We don’t really care starting off like that because as you can see we are coming on pretty strong now.’’

“We definitely have some pride,’’ Kelly said. “They weren’t happy with the way they were playing in the beginning of the year. Our schedule had a little bit of something to do with it. We were playing some pretty good teams. For the most part we’ve been there in the fourth quarter with every team that we’ve played.’’

Kinnelon was a finalist in last year’s MCT. The Colts upset Chatham to get to the title game before bowing to Mountain Lakes. Many of the players would like another chance at the title and they don’t mind showing their younger teammates what it takes to get there.

“We don’t really have a title for anyone on this team so far,’’ Gnad said. “We have a lot of young guys who are stepping up and were trying to outwork teams.’’

The Colts always seem to have talented shooters. Gnad, O’Keefe, Bobby Lewis, Neggia get better and better each day at making good feeds and burying shots. They have found another one in sophomore Morreale, the team’s fourth attackman.

“He’s stepping up a lot lately,’’ Gnad said. “He’s getting some big minutes now. He’s really proved himself. He played really well in the Lakes game. He’s someone we are going to rely on down the stretch.’’

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A shot by Kinnelon’s Brian Gnad slips past Morris Knolls’ keeper James Whitehill on Monday. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

This year’s face-off squad has been largely by committee. Sean Duncan, Steve Landsburg and Liam Nelson have all taken them. On Monday, Duncan (a sophomore like Nelson) got off to such a hot start that the Colts just stuck with him.

“Sean is pretty strong,’’ Kelly said. “He’s a big kid and he has a good hard shot on the run.’’

The defense made the stops when they needed to. Goalkeeper John Calia and the teams close defenders did more than enough to secure the victory.

“Our defense has been great,’’ Gnad said. “Even our short sticks out in the midfield, they all play great defense.’’

The Colts opened the game up in the second quarter. Some of the goals came in short bursts. Midfielders Sean Duncan and Neggia scored back-to-back goals in a 31-second span of the 11th minute. Labanca and Gnad connected on a pair of goals even quicker. Their scores came seven seconds apart with seven minutes remaining in the period. Gnad, a senior, is a performer the Colts count on consistently.

“Brian draws a lot of defenders which — if he doesn’t beat them — he knows how to find open guys,’’ midfielder Dominic Usinowitz said. “He’s probably our best one-on-one guy, that’s why he leads the team in goals.’’

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Morris Knolls Robbie McCormick has the ball on the tip of his stick but Kinnelon’s Liam Nelson isn’t giving up. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

O’Keefe gave the Colts a boost before the half by connecting on a Gnad pass with 53 seconds left on the clock to give Kinnelon a 9-3 halftime edge.

“He’s a great finisher,’’ Gnad said. “If you can find him inside, he is going to finish the ball.’’

The Colts scored four straight third-quarter goals and seven consecutive goals in the second half to pull away with the victory.  The first goal in the period came from Usinowitz, a senior midfielder, who is tough and relentless on the attack.

“He’s quick,’’ Gnad said. “When he beats his guy, he’s got a good shot. He’s scored some big goals for us this year.’’

Next up in the quarterfinals is the winner of Morristown-Madison. Both familiar foes, the Kinnelon players relish the opportunity of meeting either team in its quest to return to the final.

“I feel its wide open right now,’’ Usinowitz said. “Any one of the top five can win it. We’ve been there. We’ve experienced it. Maybe that will help us get back to the championship.’’

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Kinnelon’s Brian Gnad looks to make a move during second-quarter action. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

(Updated story to follow)

Morris County Tournament

Chatham 17, Randolph 5

Nick Citron fired a hat trick and Thomas Guida had two goals and two assists to pace the third-seeded Cougars. James Sullivan hat two goals and two assists and Sam Carson added two goals for Chatham (12-3). The Cougars play the winner of Montville-Mount Olive in the quarterfinal round. Kurt Naslonski scored twice for 14th-seeded Randolph (4-11).

Prep B Tournament

Princeton Day 10, Morristown-Beard 9, OT

Taran Auslander’s overtime goal provided the difference. Thomas Rago scored six goals and Ted Hatfield and Trevor Baptiste each had a goal and an assist for the Crimson (8-6). Morristown-Beard rallied from a 6-3 halftime deficit with four consecutive third-quarter goals to make a game of it.

GIRLS LACROSSE

Prep B Tournament

Morristown-Beard 18, Newark Academy 6

Jill Burke had five goals and one assist and Emily Kellogg had four goals and one assist to lift the Crimson (10-4).

Regular season

Jefferson 11, Mount Olive 10

Kara Hodapp had four goals and one assist and Darby Nolan posted a hat trick for the Falcons. Danille Pini added two goals for Jefferson (15-2). Francesca Verrone scored four times for the Marauders (4-11).

St. Elizabeth 11, Mary Help of Christians 4

Carolyn Byrnes had five goals and Alex Dibrigida had four goals and two assists for the Panthers (7-8).

Pequannock 8, Ramapo 6

The Golden Panthers emerged from a 4-4 halftime deficit. Pequannock outshot Ramapo 24-15. Jess Rigoglioso and Ashley Tachon scored two goals apiece for the Golden Panthers (7-8).

Morris Catholic 20, North Warren 6

Tina Nassany had six goals and one assist and Taylor Shannahan and Rachel Canning scored four goals each for Morris Catholic (8-8).

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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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