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Bonackers’ Drive Toward Playoffs Stalls In Loss To Eastport-South Manor

Originally Posted: May 06, 2009

Brett Mauser

Eastport's Donal Flaherty tries to work the ball out of his team's defensive zone but is closely watched by East Hampton's Zach Dayton. Photos by Brett Mauser

Eastport - The East Hampton boys lacrosse team's goal from the start of the season has been to make the playoffs and make some noise when it gets there. The Bonackers' aspirations remain the same these days, but with five games remaining against high-quality competition, the room for error is at a minimum.

East Hampton junior Tyler Brenneman shakes an ESM defender and makes his move toward the cage.

Playing amid a mist on Tuesday against Eastport-South Manor, Bonac simply ran out of gas. A game that was once tied at four in the third quarter quickly swung in favor of the hosts as the Sharks ran off eight of the final nine goals to take home a 12-5 victory, temporarily knocking East Hampton from the top nine in Class B.

"We're not getting long enough possessions," Bonac Head Coach Mike Vitulli said. "We get open looks but we're not finishing the ball. Right now we're not playing very good lacrosse."

The Bonackers (8-4, 5-4 Division II) are still in the thick of the Class B playoff race, although the loss dropped them from ninth to 13th in the D-II standings, leaving them ranked 11th out of the Class B teams - Mount Sinai and Bayport-Blue Point are both categorized in Class C. The top nine teams from Class B make the Suffolk County postseason bracket with the top seed enjoying a first-round bye. Eastport-South Manor (5-7, 3-6 Division II) had lost four straight but slid up one spot from 18th to 17th with the victory.

Senior Andrew Gualtieri runs the offense from the top for playoff hopeful East Hampton.

The climb to ninth isn't that long of one. East Hampton had 106.31 power points, barely two-tenths of a point behind 10th place Islip (106.57) and less than a full point in back of ninth place Harborfields (107.04). Conveniently, the Bonackers face the Tornadoes and Half Hollow Hills West, which sits eighth at 109.67 points, in their final two games of the regular season.

East Hampton trailed 4-3 at halftime and when Tyler Brenneman intercepted an attempted clear and hit James Petrie on the doorstep for an easy goal, the Bonackers were right back even after trailing since the latter stages of the first quarter. It didn't take long for the Sharks to go back out in front, and this time they were ahead for good. Twenty-four seconds after Bonac tied it, ESM took the face-off and Alec Rosenberg scored one of his three goals on the day. The Sharks then won the next face-off and Colin Flaherty did the honors, putting his squad up 6-4. Flaherty struck again with 5:03 to go, and suddenly ESM went from tied to up three.

"We worked hard to tie the score, and then gave up two or three quick ones and we got a little demoralized," Vitulli said. "We weren't able to mentally get back."

Austin Heneveld of East Hampton tries to poke the ball out of the stick of ESM's Joe Galante.

A five-goal run, which included a pair of tallies by Ryan Prokesch, put the game away by the midway point of the fourth.

Early on, Bonac had seized momentum by jumping out to a 2-0 lead. With 9:21 remaining in the first, Petrie scored unassisted, and a minute later Andrew Gualtieri doubled the team's lead. From there, ESM scored four unanswered goals during the period but still held a mild 4-3 advantage going into the break following a Neil Powell score on an extra-man opportunity.

Prior to last Thursday's 8-3 loss to Mount Sinai, East Hampton hadn't scored fewer than eight goals in any game this season. It has now done it in back-to-back games. With just five games left on the ledger, Vitulli is hoping that trend turns itself around and fast. The Bonackers get back on the saddle on Wednesday for a crucial showdown at home against another playoff contender, albeit in Class C, Bayport-Blue Point (4:30 p.m.)

"We're just not shooting very accurate right now," Vitulli said. "I don't know if we're trying to be too accurate but we're not getting enough shots on cage. We're not even forcing the goalie to make saves right now."

Vitulli said that the relative lack of personnel has his roster dragging its feet. Ordinarily, he'd carry between 25 and 30 players; Bonac is down to just 18 now.

"Today we played a very physical team that had a lot more athletes than us," Vitulli said. "They ran guys through, we got tired, we have a short bench and it caught up to us. We get right back on the horse tomorrow. It's a good thing."

Andrew Gualtieri and the Bonackers got back on track Wednesday with a rout of Bayport-Blue Point.

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