ESM inching closer to playoff berth

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The objective of this year’s Eastport South Manor boys lacrosse team is to get to the Class B playoffs, and thanks to a pair of victories against fellow middle-of-the-pack Division II opponents last week, the Sharks are a few steps closer to making that goal a reality.

ESM (4-4 in Division II, 5-6 overall) traveled to Westhampton Beach (2-6, 3-7) on April 22 and picked up an 11-6 win before getting a 9-7 victory in East Hampton (3-4, 5-4) on Thursday. The wins put the Sharks in ninth place in Division II with 107.510 power points and more importantly, seventh place among Class B teams in the division. The top six Class B teams in Division II will qualify for the playoffs, making the final six regular season games crucial for the Sharks.

ESM was scheduled to visit undefeated division leader Shoreham/Wading River on Wednesday and will host Islip (2-5, 2-7 in 11th place with 97.350 points) on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. The Sharks will host Elwood/John Glenn (6-1, 8-2 in sixth place with 119.850 points) on Tuesday at the same time before taking on Mercy and Southampton, the two last-place teams in the division, on May 14 and 16, respectively, both at home. They will close out the regular season at home on May 20 against Huntington (3-4, 4-6 in 10th place with 105.920 points).

To get past a scrappy East Hampton team, the Sharks used a 5-0 run in the second quarter, which gave them an 8-3 halftime lead and wound up being good enough the preserve the win, despite a late-game comeback by the Bonackers. East Hampton cut the lead to 8-7 with 4:10 remaining in the fourth quarter, but Alec Rosenberg scored off an assist from Colin Flaherty with 2:59 left to give the Sharks a two-point cushion.

During the crucial second quarter, ESM took advantage of poor play by the Bonackers and scored two of its five goals in man-up situations.

“We had more possessions during that time and we got some transition stuff going,” ESM head coach Kevin Huff said of his team’s effort in the second quarter.

Both teams were scoreless in the third quarter before East Hampton made its run. Bonacker goalie Mark Simmons made 11 of his 17 saves in the second half to keep ESM at bay, but it was not enough to get his team over the hump.

Tom Guido led the Sharks with three goals and an assist while Alec Rosenberg scored three times. Colin Flaherty had two goals and two assists while his brother, Donal Flaherty, won 10 of 12 faceoffs. Jeff Orban had one goal and goalie Rich Parez made 14 saves.

“That was a big win for us,” Huff said. “On any given day, anyone can beat anyone in the division. East Hampton beat Babylon and we lost to Babylon, so you can never figure it out.”

Huff said that he wasn’t as happy with his team’s play in the second half against East Hampton, but was pleased to see his team come away with the desired result.

“We just didn’t convert on our opportunities, and we were pretty sloppy with the ball,” he said. “But I will say that they have a very good goalie. He had a lot of saves and forced us into bad shots.”

In the win against Westhampton Beach earlier in the week, ESM used a consistent effort to emerge with the win. The Sharks had an 8-5 lead going into the final quarter and outscored the Hurricanes 3-1 in that frame to secure the victory. Donal Flaherty was strong on faceoffs again, winning 13 of 20, while Parez made eight of his 13 saves in the second half.

Huff said he was impressed with the balance scoring that his team displayed in its win against the Canes. 11 players contributed to the scoring, with seven total goal scorers and an additional four different players contributing assists.

“It’s a rivalry that the kids get up for, and Westhampton gets up for us,” Huff said. “It wasn’t just one or two kids getting a bunch of goals. A few defensemen had assists too, which means that they were running the length of the field and making plays.”

Rosenberg, Guido, Brendan Hayes and Alan Henderson each scored twice, while Guido added an assist. Mike Borruso, Matt Gonzalez and KJ Huff each scored once as well and defensemen Larry Gress and Joe Galante each had assists. Adam Abbate and Colin Flaherty contributed one assist each as well.

On Saturday, the Sharks hit the road for a 9-8 non-league loss to Bellport (Division I). After ESM tied the game with 2:16 left on a goal by Colin Flaherty, Bellport tallied the game-winner when Ryan Krog scored with 25 seconds left in regulation.

Bellport started the game on a 5-1 run and rode a 7-3 halftime lead to the win.

“They were very physical and athletic and they’re a skilled squad,” Huff said of Bellport. “We spotted them a few goals early on and we had to play catch-up.”

Krog’s game-winner came on a man-up situation that resulted from what Huff said was a “questionable” call.

Guido led ESM in the loss with two goals and an assist while Borruso tallied two goals. Huff finished with a goal and an assist while Orban, Donal Flaherty and Colin Flaherty each had one goal.

ESM’s playoff fate will be decided in the coming weeks and Huff said that while he is happy to be in the hunt, he’s also aware that it will take hard work to achieve the ultimate goal.

“A coach is never happy,” he said. “I think we could have been cleaner in a few games we lost and we might be in a better spot right now. We have a couple of games that, hopefully, we can handle and a few that can go either way. But I’m happy with the improvement we’ve shown and I think we should finish up the season well.”

Westhampton Beach

The Hurricanes fell to 2-6 in Division II, 3-7 overall after a pair of losses last week. After falling to ESM, the Canes were downed 9-6 by Harborfields at home on Thursday. Against Harborfields, Westhampton Beach fell behind 4-1 at halftime and could not make up any ground in the second half, playing nearly evenly with the Tornadoes for the remainder of the game.

Ralph Pepe led Westhampton Beach with two goals and three assists while Kevin Sabo scored twice. Geoff Craz and Mike Barrie each had a goal while Marco Pizzo contributed an assist. Tom Sana made eight saves for the Canes and split time in goal with Cory Hubbard, who made 10 saves.

In the loss to ESM, both Pepe and Craz had two goals and an assist while Sabo had two goals and one assist. Hubbard made nine saves in the losing effort.

Westhampton Beach was scheduled to visit undefeated Rocky Point on Wednesday and will travel to Bayport/Blue Point for a game on Friday at 4 p.m. The Canes will host winless Southampton on Tuesday at 4 p.m.

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