Patient offense, steady defense lifts Morristown

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

WASHINGTON TWP. (Morris) — All season long the Morristown boys lacrosse team was looking for a signature win. On Tuesday, the Colonials earned a victory that was definitely worth the wait.

Chris Drake fired a hat trick and added an assist to lift Morristown to a 6-4 upset victory over West Morris in North III state tournament quarterfinal round contest.

Brian Begley and Kendall Rogers picked up a goal and an assist and Brad Greik added a goal for the second-seeded Colonials. Morristown (10-9) will host 11th-seeded Randolph in the semifinal round on Thursday.

Jeremy Angle scored twice and Cooper Sloan and Kyle Skurchak also scored goals for second-seeded West Morris (11-8).

44 bl st morwmMorristown’s Brian Begley helped break the game open for the Colonials. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

“We talked about it as a team — that moment that we could remember this year — that signature win,” Morristown coach Jeff Bigas said. “I felt like we won the games that we were supposed to win. We didn’t win any games that we weren’t expected to win. This is a group that deserves a win like that. We have a lot of seniors. They’ve been awesome kids and they deserve a great win like that.”

The Colonials gained a measure of revenge from the Wolfpack from a two-goal loss on April 3.

“It was all the defense,” Morristown goalkeeper Will Edwards said. “After our 9-7 loss at the beginning of the year to them we knew that we wanted them back either in counties or states and we knew that we had to pull out a big “W”.”

In a way the rematch brought the Colonials back to their roots. For the last few years Morristown has been spending most of its time on the school’s artificial turf field. Because West Morris still plays on grass, the Colonials held their last couple of practices at Frelinghuysen School, where the program used to practice and play their games when lacrosse struggled at the school.

“(West Morris) is a tough place to come in and win,” Bigas said. “We had two practices at Frelinghuysen on the grass, that helped. We went back to the roots of Morristown lacrosse. I like the turf better myself but sometimes we have to use it.”

69 bl st morwmAnton Buckner (21) plays a role for the defensive-minded Colonials. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Perhaps most important factor going into the game was the determination of the Colonials’ offense to be patient and work the West Morris zone defense to develop smart, accurate scoring opportunities.

“We just wanted to run our stuff,” Drake said. “We got great ball movement all around. It was a tough zone to beat. They (goals) finally started to fall in the second half. West Morris is a great team. They beat us in football, too. We really, really wanted this one bad.”

The contest was a tight defensive battle throughout. The game was tied 3-3 going into the fourth quarter, when Morristown went on a three-goal run. Midfielder Brad Greik’s lefty shot hit the top right corner of the net to make it 4-3 with 10:45 left in regulation.

“Bradley is a work horse,” Drake said. “He’s one of the best hockey players in the school. He’s a sophomore. He will be a big name to remember for years to come.”

62 bl st morwm

Chris Drake (12) and Kendall Rogers (7) share a moment after teaming up for an early goal. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

With 3:47 left in the game, Drake batted in a Joey Murphy feed in front of the crease to make it a two-goal game. It was an ugly looking goal that seemed caught in the pocket of the attackman’s stick for a moment before finding the net, but Drake wasn’t concerned with style points.

“Coach has been stressing (patience) all week,” Drake said. “Most of our goals were assists off great feeds. We were just being patient and working it around. … That goal was all from Murph and that was one of the worst shots I ever took. He basically put that in the net. I didn’t care how that ball went in. I’ll head butt it in. Whatever it takes.”

Then thirty-five seconds later it was a 6-3 game. Brian Begley barged in with an unassisted goal when West Morris switched out of its zone defense at exactly the wrong time. He burst past a West Morris defender like a runaway train and went straight to the cage. No one could stop him.

“That’s part of being patient,” Bigas said. “We wore them down and got a lead and eventually you have to come out of that zone. When they did, there’s not a lot of people that can guard Brian Begley even from 30 yards away. He recognized the situation really quick — even before I did — and he was gone.”

Angle tried to rally the Wolfpack with a score just outside the two-minute mark but Morristown wasn’t going to relinquish the lead. The strength of the team has been its defense.

“Andres Rodriguez is probably our top defender,” Edwards said. “He really lifts us up; the same with Ryan Servais and Anton Buckner. We liked our one-on-one match ups. We got the ground balls and we won.”

Edwards was also in top form. He had eight saves, was solid on his clears and wasn’t going to allow West Morris many scoring chances.

19 bl st morwm

Morristown’s defense put a lot of pressure on the West Morris attack on Tuesday. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

“Our team is built around our defense,” Bigas said. “We have a lot of tough, strong guys. Andres Rodriguez is one of the best D-guys in the state. Will Edwards came up with some awesome saves.”

The seventh-seeded Colonials eventually got a ground ball and ran out the final minutes. Later on Morristown got word that it would get one more home game since Randolph, an 11th-seed, had upset Scotch Plains. Earning a sectional title is something Morristown would relish after battling through what resembled an average year. No matter what happens now, the Colonials have a victory worth writing about and some special moments to savor.

“Morristown is a battle-tested team,” Drake said. “We play the best teams in the county, the best teams in the state. We’re not afraid of anybody. We’re ready to come back from anything. We have a great senior class. We have about 18 seniors. We wanted this one bad.”

Lacrosse Roundup 

Non Public A

Delbarton 18, Paramus Catholic 2

The Green Wave led 11-1 at the half and used four goalies in all. Jack Crowley, Jordan Dowiak, Mickey Dwyer, Ryan Onderdonk and Michael Rutter scored two goals apiece in the Delbarton triumph on Tuesday. The Green Wave faces St. Joseph’s of Montvale (a 10-4 winner over Pope John) in the next round.

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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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