CLARK NJ - On paper, it looked to be an interesting match-up. The number-one seeded Summit High School Boys Varsity Lacrosse Team against fifth-seeded AL Johnson which, despite the designation of uniform colors on the night, was literally the home team, playing the Union County Tournament (UCT) semifinal in the friendly confines of their school's stadium.
What's more, the Crusaders were coming off a strong performance that saw them upset fourth-seeded New Providence, winning the tourney quarterfinal tilt 10-5 on the road.
But this game wasn't played on paper, it was contested on artificial turf and, had it been a boxing match, the referee would've stopped the bout in the second quarter and declared the Hilltoppers the winner by TKO.
The Maroon and White were on the front foot from the get-go, and simply had too much talent and go-go for their opponent. A 7-0 second quarter run drained the vitality out of AL Johnson and the air out of the game, propelling Summit to a 15-2 win and onto the UCT Finals.
There, the Hilltoppers will face a familiar foe -- Westfield. The Blue Devils watched their 10-6 lead over Scotch Plains-Fanwood evaporate over the final five minutes only to themselves score the winning goal inside the final 30 seconds to claim an 11-10 triumph.
Summit, now 12-2 on the season, will face Westfield May 6 at AL Johnson, with the game slated to begin at 7 p.m. and immediately follow the all-Summit Girls UCT Final pitting the Hilltoppers against Oak Knoll. Both games are rematches of the 2016 UCT finals. Summit's game against the Royals begins at 5 p.m.
Just as the girls from the 07901 took care of business the night before, the boys followed suit with an unrelenting goal barrage. Senior captain Corey McManus along with junior Harry Kilkowski each had four goals, and junior Nick Thomson added a Hat Trick as Summit led 5-1 after the first quarter and 12-2 at halftime.
The stats reflected the dominance. Sam Zanelli and Joe Persche combined to win an astounding 16 of 19 face-offs, and the Hilltoppers had a massive edge in both shots (40-11) and ground balls (39-15). Absent some acrobatic work in goal by the Crusaders' Josh Hill and Summit Head Coach Jim Davidson's ultra-classy mentality to never embarrass an opponent, the scoreline could have been way more gruesome than it even was for AL Johnson.
Summit was aided by a spate of undisciplined play by the Crusaders, who took eight penalties in the first half alone, which led to four Hilltopper man-up goals. Several of the infractions were clearly borne out of frustration coming immediately after Summit scored.
McManus notched Summit's first three goals with, unbelievably, the last marker of the triad -- which came with 5:18 left in the opening quarter -- ending up being the eventual game winner. Kilkowski and Thomson also found the back of the net in the opening 12 minutes while Jon Duffy scored Crusaders' lone goal.
The Hilltoppers settled the outcome with a seven-goals-in-less-than-seven-minutes run in the second stanza. In order, Greg Moller, Jackson Tyler, a pair from Kilkowski,, Chris Fowler, Thomson again and Kilkowski again all hit twine. Brandon Hund scored for AL Johnson.
With things done and dusted, Davidson got the substitution conveyer belt going, and Summit scored the final three goals of the game, two coming in the third quarter from Fowler and McManus, with Thomson getting his fourth in the fourth.
Hilltoppers Moller and Fowler each had three assists on the night, and Will Vitton (4) and Patrick Moriarty (2) combined for six saves. Sam Kaplan spelled Moriarty in the fourth quarter.
"We ran hard tonight," said Davidson. "Johnson was coming off a big win over New Providence in which their midfield played hard and fast. We knew we had to match their intensity."
UCT Boys Lacrosse Final: Summit v. Westfield -- May 6 at AL Johnson High School, May 6 at 7 p.m.