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It wasn’t a playoff game or even a conference game for that matter, but don’t try telling any of the Garden City or Ward Melville lacrosse players that last Saturday’s non-league match at Warren King Field wasn’t a big one. Garden City dominated the second half to beat the Patriots, 12-9, in an inter-county non-league contest that had both Nassau and Suffolk fans as well as national pollsters watching.

For the Trojans (3-0) the win helped build the confidence and belief that this is a very strong team capable of playing with anyone. “There is no doubt about it. This was a big win for us against an outstanding team. I am very proud of our guys,” said Coach Steve Finnell. Ward Melville is a Class A school and is regarded as a top contender in Suffolk. The Patriots handed GC one of its three losses in 2011 and that was on the mind of the Trojan seniors.

W-M broke a 3-3 tie with three straight second quarter goals. “I think that was the key point in the game,” Finnell said. “We were down 6-3 and Dan Marino had made some great saves to keep it that close. But then we turned it around and outscored them 9-3 the rest of the way. The offense got rolling and the defense shut them down.”

For the third consecutive game, the Garden City’s attack lit up the scoreboard. Devin Dwyer, Liam Kennedy and the highly improved Justin Guterding have been taking turns scoring goals and perhaps, equally importantly, racking up assists. Their unselfish play has put huge pressure on defenses. In fact, Ward Melville’s goalie did not make a single second half save. Dwyer wound up with four goals and two assists, Guterding had six assists and Kennedy had three goals.

Syracuse-bound (for football) midfielder Ryan Norton’s third goal of the game tied the score at 7-7. Cody George then put the Trojans ahead to stay with a sharp-angled shot before Kennedy deflected Guterding’s shot for a 9-7 edge at the end of three periods, Veterans Devin Dwyer and Patric Berkery kept the rally going. Dwyer stole a clearing pass and scored easily, then took a pass from Guterding for another goal. Berkery’s rifle shot gave GC what seemed an insurmountable 12-7 lead with five minutes remaining, but there were still a few tense moments left. The Patriots broke a long scoreless streak to draw within four, then the Trojans were hit with two penalties on one play. The two-man advantage gave Ward Melville the opportunity to score a quick goal. The score was 12-9 and the Trojans were having major problems with faceoffs, winning only 6 of 24 for the game. But freshman James Sullivan won this one and GC managed to run a big chunk of time off the clock to clinch the victory.

After enjoying six days off, the Trojans will play another one of those non-league showdowns this Saturday (March 31) when they travel to Baltimore to play perennial power St. Paul’s at 2 p.m. This series has frustrated Garden City which has lost all five meetings by very close scores. It is another chance for the Trojan seniors to go out on top.

Earlier, GC won its league opener over Carey by a convincing 16-0 score, with the entire second half played in running time. Coach Finnell cleared his bench after the Trojans took a 12-0 halftime lead. Justin Guterding had five goals and Devin Dwyer had six assists – all in the first half. Sean Digan had his first two varsity goals, both unassisted.

LAX NOTES: GC has won 6 of 8 all-time against Ward Melville, including three consecutive Long Island Championships from 1985-87.....Defenseman Ed Blatz scored goals in the first two games...In three scrimmages and one game against nationally ranked teams, the Trojan defense, which has been re-built except for Eugene Berkery and Dan Marino, has more than held its own. Freshman Tom Wright has been particularly impressive....Tom Flatley, whose JV team beat Ward Melville 11-6 to go to 3-0, is impressed with the varsity’s start. “This could be our best offensive team in a long time,” he said.

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