CHATHAM, NJ - The quest for a third straight Group 2 state championship begins now for the Chatham boys lacrosse team.
Scott Lynch put the finishing touches on the regular season for Chatham when he jammed in a goal with 15.8 seconds left, culminating a 6-5 victory over Kinnelon Thursday at Cougar Field.
Chatham (14-6) appears to be peaking at the right time as it heads into the state tournament on Saturday with an 11 a.m. home meeting against Northern Valley of Demarest.
"I think it was kind of a great way to end the regular season," Chatham coach Tony Calandra said. "Play well down the stretch and come out with a win.
Kinnelon (9-7) received a big game from senior goalie John Calia, who made 14 saves, and tied the game at 5-5 when Bobby Lewis scored his second goal of the game with 1:38 left in the fourth quarter. Lynch made it a happy ending for Chatham after David Gill dodged his way to the cage and made a pinpoint pass to Lynch for the winning goal.
"They have quality wins and quality losses," Calandra said. "They lost to Mountain Lakes by two, Bergen Catholic by three. We knew they were going to come out and play hard. They're very well coached. We had some shots early that we didn't can. Decision-making was good. We did a nice job on ground balls. It's always good to win."
James Sullivan scored an unassisted goal and Gill fired in an underhanded shot that beat Calia high after receiving a pass from Thomas Berger, staking Chatham to a 5-3 lead in the third quarter. But Lewis scored late in the third and again in the waning minutes of the fourth to tie it up for Kinnelon.
That's when defenseman Will Sullivan picked up a ground ball that led to the Gill-to-Lynch winning play.
"He's always cutting in the right spots," Gill said of Lynch. "We put him on attack; he was a D-middie last year. We just threw him up there and he's been fine all year. That was a big one right there. It's nothing new. It's just a matter of time on that play. We looked for him a bunch before, but he came through at the right time. His guy came to me so he was open and he put it in."
Gill, Chatham's most closely guarded offensive player, had high praise for the Chatham defense, which provided great protection for goalie Matt Grilli, who ended with six saves.
"Defense was awesome, I thought," Gill said. "They've been getting it together, going into the state tournament that's exactly what we need."
In the first half, Chatham moved to a 3-2 lead. Austin Pierce scooped up a ground ball, preceding Gill's blast from the left of the cage for a 1-1 tie in the first. In the second period, Will Barnett finished a pass from Rich Berger for a 2-1 edge and Thomas Berger connected with a bouncer from up top for a 3-1 Chatham lead.
Will Barnett scores off a pass from Rich Berger for Chatham in video below