By Erin Maher – The stands were packed Saturday afternoon at Pleasantville High School for the boys’ lacrosse team’s showdown with perennial Class C powerhouse Shoreham-Wading River.
But the highly anticipated matchup came at the end of a somber spring break for the school, during which Panther senior basketball star Quentin Lupo tragically passed away. Prior to the varsity game, the Panthers’ JV team defeated SWR, with Lupo’s younger brother, Justin, on the field and wearing the same # 30 Quentin had so recently worn while helping Pleasantville win the Section 1 basketball title.
Before the National Anthem, there was a moment of silence and then the Panther varsity team took to the field with each member wearing a “Q30” sticker on his helmet in honor of Lupo.
The two-time defending sectional Class C champion Panthers knew it would be a difficult day emotionally and also trying to keep up with the talented Wildcats from the eastern end of Long Island.
“After a rough week, mentally, we held a light practice yesterday, but didn’t spend a lot of time on the game program,” said Pleasantville head coach Chris Kear shortly after his team had been defeated 12-11 in an overtime thriller. The Panthers fell behind 5-0 in the opening quarter, but battled back to eventually grab a brief lead in the fourth quarter.
Shoreham played an aggressive offense the first quarter, with attacker Chris Gray scoring the Wildcats’first goal within the first 20 seconds of the game. Shoreham’s FOGO, Joseph Miller, followed Gray closely with another goal three minutes into the first quarter.
The Wildcats kept Pleasantville on the defensive, keeping the ball in play mostly at the Panthers’ defensive end. Midway through the first quarter, the Panthers’ Declan McDermott scored, but his goal was nullified by a spearing penalty.
While Pleasantville goalie Jack Fitzgerald managed to make three saves in the first quarter, it was hardly enough to slow down Shoreham’s strong play. Four out of six face-offs were won by Shoreham, and the first quarter ended with the Panthers trailing the Wildcats 5-0.
Kear knew that his Panthers needed to step up their defense if they were going to have teeth in this game and overcome their huge five-goal deficit.
“What’s going through my mind was we’re just making some mental errors and a couple of guys just missed cues doing what their job was,” he said. “We probably needed to be a little more aggressive on the defense. I think we were being a little too passive.”
The start of the second quarter saw the Panthers step up, with Nolan McAndrew winning the face-off. McAndrew passed the ball to Lucas Cohen, who scored Pleasantville’s first goal of the game, just nine seconds into the quarter. After another goal by Shoreham’s Sean Halpin, the Panthers’ Brian Reda made his way around the Wildcats’ net and scored on an unassisted goal. By the end of the second quarter, Pleasantville had closed to within 7-5 of the Wildcats.
In the third quarter, Pleasantville freshman attack Jake Coleman got the ball to midfielder Jack Howe for another Panther goal. Ryan Drillock later provided a wraparound shot, and the third quarter ended with the Wildcats clinging to a 9-7 edge.
Pleasantville showed grit in the fourth quarter, with a goal by Cohen and then a down-the-alley score by McAndrew, assisted by Howe, tying the game 9-9 with nine minutes remaining. The Panthers even wound up taking a brief lead, on a goal by Reda midway through the period. But with 2:50 left, Shoreham’s Halpin scored to give the Wildcats the lead back, 11-10.
McDermott came to the rescue, though, tying the game with only 29 seconds left on the clock. The Panthers won the all-important next face-off, but could not score and the game headed to overtime.
The Panthers did have their chances in overtime, but with just over two minutes left in the first four-minute session SWR’s Arline came around the back of the cage and beat Fitzgerald with an angled shot that decided the outcome.
“We definitely had our chances,” said Kear. “I think we hit at least three, maybe four, pipes in the game. We had some great looks right on the crease that we just didn’t stick our shots. Could’ve been a different game.”
While the final score was not in the Panthers’ favor, Kear was still satisfied with what he saw from his team after the opening quarter.
“Yeah, I think it showed the kids have a lot of resilience and they realized that they can play with just about anybody,” he said. “I think them coming back on a team like this showed them and us, and their supporters, that we can pretty much play with any great team in New York. So we just want to take this experience and learn from it and hopefully get better down the stretch.”