Call it a coach’s intuition, call it a hunch. But Mike Bowler had a feeling and when you’ve been coaching Rocky Point lacrosse for almost 40 years, you go with it.
So, in the middle of an intense Suffolk Class B first round game played in 90-degree heat at Half Hollow Hills West, Bowler needed something cool.
Rather, someone cool.
Enter Kyle Bonesteel, a sophomore who moved from midfield to attack midway through the game and who scored the double-overtime winner to lift fifth-seeded Rocky Point to a thrilling, 11-10, win over fourth-seeded Hills West Thursday afternoon.
“He’s cool, he’s calm, he’s collected. We almost have to light a fire under him to get him to really go,” Bowler said. “He’s got good skills, a good head and he’s a smart lacrosse player. I trust him on the ball and off the ball he cuts well. He does a great job of handling the ball. That’s the big thing you want, especially in a pressure game like this.”
Bonesteel’s second goal of the game, which came with 43 seconds left in the second extra session, booked a semifinal berth for the Eagles, who meet top-seeded East Islip in the semifinals next Friday.
“That’s what you dream about, what you play the game for,” said Bonesteel, who was at the bottom of the celebratory dogpile. “I’m great. I’m so happy right now.”
Bonesteel just had to cut toward the cage and shoot after a terrific fake and dump down by senior midfielder Justin Curreri.
“He’s just a smart kid and he does great things with the ball. He’s just money for us,” Bowler said of Curreri. “He doesn’t score a lot of goals, but clearing the ball, it’s just the little things he does. We’re going to miss him a lot.”
The goal also ended what was two wild overtime periods in which both teams had numerous chances, turned the ball over and picked up big ground balls, but struggled to put shots on frame.
Rocky Point (12-4) had a golden chance to win in the final seconds of regulation, but Pete LaSalla’s shot glanced off the post as time expired. The Eagles also had the ball at the end of the first overtime, but a turnover resulted in a squandered opportunity.
Still, Bowler wasn’t frustrated. That’s because he had LaSalla, the Virginia-bound junior who was 20-of-24 at the faceoff X.
“We’re so fortunate to have him,” Bowler said. “For the year he has an 85 percent faceoff winning percentage. We don’t score at the end [of regulation] and the end of the [first] overtime period, I don’t sweat that because I know we’re going to get the ball back.”
LaSalla, who also had two goals and one assist, took the opening faceoff straight to the cage to give Rocky Point the lead seven seconds into the contest.
Picking out cutter after cutter from behind the cage, Cam Mule had Hills West (8-9) in front 8-5 early in the third quarter.
Bonesteel cut Rocky Point’s deficit to 8-7 and Zach Gill tied the score at eight on an extra-man goal early in the fourth quarter.
Christian Mule went behind his back to put Hills West back in front, 9-8, but Jake Wandle equalized following a Colts defensive miscue with 7:05 remaining in regulation.
Mike Vaden gave Rocky Point its first lead since the first quarter on a strong move to the cage just 35 seconds later. However, the Mule brothers combined for another tying goal as Cam found Christian with 3:42 left.
As he was rehydrating on the sideline after regulation, LaSalla flashed back to his team’s only other overtime game this year – an 8-7 loss to Islip 10 days ago.
“A couple of games ago we lost in overtime to Islip and that’s been on the back of our minds,” LaSalla said. “We’re not going to let that happen again.”
Bonesteel made sure of it.