Delbarton’s T of C title hopes hinge on balanced effort

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

Who deserves more credit for Delbarton’s success this year. Is it the big, hard-nosed defense, the improving and diverse offense or their ability to make changes on the fly and turn halftime deficits into secure victories by the fourth quarter? One has to say all three.

In equal parts the Green Wave has to execute properly if they have any thoughts of toppling Summit and earning the school’s first T of C title since 2006.

The two familiar foes play each other at Basilone Field at the Bridgewater-Raritan High School in a 7:30 start. There will be a strong Summit contingent there since the Hilltoppers girls squad will be determined to upset New Jersey juggernaut Moorestown in the Girls Lacrosse T of C final scheduled for 5 p.m.

On Wednesday, J. J. McBride scored four goals and Emmet Cordrey fired a hat trick to lift Delbarton to a 12-6 victory over Ridgewood in the T of C semifinals Jordan Dowiak and Conor Mackie each had two goals and one assist for the Green Wave. Delbarton trailed 5-4 at halftime and rallied for five third-quarter goals to take an 9-6 edge going into the fourth quarter. The rally seemed to follow the formula of other Delbarton victories against fervent rivals like Mountain Lakes and Seton Hall Prep. After a middling first half, the Green Wave settles down, makes adjustments, wins draws and finds a way to close out their opponents.

“I don’t know if it was nervousness or just settling in from the atmosphere of the semis of the T of C.,” Dowiak said of the Ridgewood game. “We like to say we’ve been in a lot of big games and we know how to play in them. We get settled and we do what we do well.”

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Connor Kirst makes a move to the cage during Wednesday’s Tournament of Champions semifinal. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

McBride believes it’s a combination of all those things.

“It’s a little bit of both,” McBride said. “We come out in the first half and see what the offense is giving our defense and what their defense is giving our offense. We kind of make adjustments. It’s settling into the game and letting the game come to us.”

Being flexible and capable of altering a game plan is an admirable trait. It also helps that the offense and defense feed off each others success. The Green Wave’s offensive performances have certainly improved because of their battles on the practice field with their defensive teammates.

“(Chad) Otterman, (Aaron) Slodowich, MJ (Melillo), Steve (Kovalsky), Pete Welch are great and Coach K (Matt Kovachik) does such a phenomenal job coaching them,” Dowiak said. “He is intense. He has so much love for the game. He does so much work for us. It’s not fun going against them in practice some days but it definitely prepares us for games. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The Green Wave defense is big and physical but not too big that it can’t switch gears if it will make a difference. Their adjustment to a zone look in the second half was just enough to befuddle a Ridgewood offense that was scoring goals but with great difficulty.

68 bl mlsum delbrwJ.J. McBride is the quarterback of the Delbarton attack. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

By the midway point of the third quarter, Delbarton started winning some draws and working expertly for some open looks. They eventually took over the game with a combination of ball control and some pinpoint shooting. Dowiak and McBride were both part of that 5-goal barrage.

McBride triggered the second half scoring by circling the crease and connecting with a tight angle shot in the right corner to tie the game 5-all at 8:08. The senior attackman often takes chances in firing tight shots and occasionally catches his opponents off guard that way. His confidence is contagious.

“J.J. is irreplaceable,” Dowiak said. “He’s the quarterback of our offense. When he plays well the whole team plays well. When he plays patient, we play patient and confident.”

He seems to inspire his teammates to take chances, too. How else do you explain Dowiak’s goal that soon followed. When the ball bounced off his stick near the top left side of the box, Dowiak turned his back from the goal to pick up the ball. Then he turned and fired almost in one motion. His perfect shot zipped into the top right side of the net to give Delbarton the lead for good.

“I like to just kind of rip it as hard as I can with my right hand and I usually end up in that spot,” Dowiak said.

“I just spun and I didn’t want to get hit so I shot it as fast as I could. I was fortunate it went in.”

Delbarton pulled away after that. Not surprisingly the offense has developed quite a bit since the early season. The Green Wave has been receiving good balance and Jack Crowley, Cordrey, Mackie and Will McCarthy as well as McBride and Dowiak have demonstrated that they are capable of filling the net.

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Conor Mackie’s work on the draw helps keep the Delbarton offense in rhythm. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

“We have just been practicing hard every single day and we’ve been getting better in practice,” McBride said. “We have a lot of chemistry within our team. We are just getting better and better. We are clicking on all cylinders. We playing so well right know and having so much fun.”

Delbarton does have a score to settle. Even though all accounts of Summit’s 8-7 victory over Delbarton on March 29, point to it as a mistake-filled game in dismal, wet weather, a loss is a loss. Summit’s 10-3 walloping of Mountain Lakes in the other T of C semifinal was no mirage. The Green Wave can’t let the Hilltoppers take control of the game like it did early on against the Lakers if they expect to earn a title. The game will definitely be on early and the hope is for an entertaining and worthwhile finish to the 2014 lacrosse season.

“We fell short last year,” Dowiak said. “As a senior class we talked about getting this team together and bringing the state championship back to Delbarton. Hopefully, we can do it. We know we can.”

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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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