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Boys Lacrosse: Wildcats fall one step short of state final

Shoreham-Wading River lacrosse player Chris Gray 060816

A high school boys lacrosse game of great consequence came to down to a simple game of keepaway. Yorktown is good at keepaway, among other things.

Protecting a 6-5 lead in a New York State Class B semifinal, Yorktown was running the clock down during the final minutes when Shoreham-Wading River caught a break. A turnover gave Shoreham the ball and hope. But that hope didn’t last long.

A poor clearance attempt was scooped up by Yorktown’s Darren Mata. Then Shoreham’s Chris Rosati was assessed a slashing penalty with 1 minute 11 seconds left.

As if that wasn’t enough, after Shoreham pulled goalie Jimmy Puckey, Yorktown’s Hunter Embry put his third goal of the game into an unguarded net with 1:02 to go, making it 7-5. It was the only time the teams were separated by more than one goal, and it was too much for the Wildcats to overcome in too little time. Jason Curran’s goal with five seconds left for Shoreham was a mere formality in a 7-6 loss at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium on Wednesday.

It was Yorktown’s bench that charged onto the field to celebrate while Shoreham was left to contemplate having come so close, only to meet its match in the penultimate step to the state final. Yorktown will bid for its eighth state title on Saturday when it plays Jamesville-DeWitt at Middletown High School.

“We made mistakes, and they capitalized on them, and in a tight game you can’t do that,” Shoreham coach Mike Taylor told reporters.

Shoreham (18-3) has won three state titles — all in Class C — in 2002, 2007 and 2012. This was its third loss in a state semifinal. The Wildcats have never won a state Class B crown.

Shoreham doesn’t lose often. During Taylor’s two years in charge, it has lost five games by a total of five goals. With that record comes a degree of swagger.

“We’re not going to come across a team that’s really going to blow us out of the water,” Curran said. “We can hang with everyone.”

Shoreham’s potent attack had its work cut out, trying to probe for openings in Yorktown’s disciplined zone defense, which caused 11 turnovers.

Dom Cioffi scored two goals and Jamison Embry added one goal and three assists for the Huskers (16-6).

Shoreham was led offensively by Curran (two goals, two assists) and Chris Gray (two goals).

Gray, a junior attackman, played despite having suffered a deep left quadricep contusion when he was kneed in the Long Island final against Garden City.

“We didn’t think Chris Gray was going to play today,” Taylor said. “He couldn’t even walk yesterday so I give him a lot of credit for just playing.”

Sitting out the game was not an option for Gray. “It was definitely hard to fight through the pain, but I knew this could have been one of my last games with this team,” he said. “These guys are my family, so I just put it all on the line for them because they deserve that.”

Three goals were scored in a wild 19-second span late in the first quarter. Cioffi tied it at 1-1 for Yorktown with 29.7 seconds left in the quarter. Then Shoreham responded eight seconds later. A shot by Gray was saved by Liam Donnelly. Xavier Arline picked up the rebound and shot it past Donnelly. Eleven seconds later, Yorktown’s Anthony Altimari evened terms again at 2-2.

But things didn’t go Shoreham’s way down the stretch. The Wildcats didn’t have enough players on the field after a timeout late in the game. “I’m not sure how that happened,” said Taylor.

Yorktown has a way of making teams pay for things like that.

“I think every single time we made a mistake, they capitalized,” said Taylor, whose team was outshot, 29-17.

With two starting eighth-graders, Arline and Jack Schirtzer, and other underclassmen, the future looks bright for Shoreham.

“This one’s going to hurt, so we’re going to have this in the back of our minds,” Gray said. “We’re going to put in a lot of work in the offseason and be right back next season.”

Taylor made a point to refer to this season as a journey, not a mission. He said, “We feel like it’s more a journey than a mission because a mission can fail and there’s no failure in this year.”

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Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River’s Chris Gray celebrates a goal as Yorktown’s fallen goalie Liam Donnelly looks back at his goal. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)