Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Section I's Lifelong Lax Bros Panning Out


By Zach Smart

Conor Prunty and Justin Mabus grew up playing lacrosse together on the grassroots circuit.

As young guns, they envisioned playing lacrosse on a big time stage beyond the traditional Westchester lacrosse breeding grounds of Yorktown and Lakeland-Panas.

 As 12-year-olds, the thought of authoring college careers and earning scholarships to play fueled their motivation. They talked about it all the time — in the driveway, over constant video games of Madden, and throughout various camps together.

While developing their skills and ascending the lax ladder—from modified to J.V. to Varsity, the ultra-competitive spirit between the two never dampened.

Of course, the childhood buds took separate routes.  Prunty starred at Lakeland/Panas and Mabus emerged into a playmaker at Yorktown, longtime blood rivals in Section I lacrosse.

The division didn't stick.

During the summer heading into their senior years, Mabus and Prunty renewed their friendship while playing for a local Nike 17U travel team. Many of their teammates from Lakeland/Panas and Yorktown were at Empire State games and Prunty and Mabus fed off of each other's game.

It’s surely no secret to either player that they're nearly clones of each other, lacrosse-wise. They also understand the intense nature of this storied high school rivalry. During high school, the two respectfully refused to interact before the Yorktown/Lakeland-Panas met.  

"We text each other all the time," explained Mabus during his senior year at Yorktown. "But we make sure we don't speak during the week before the Murphy Cup or the Section I championship. It's nothing personal."

In Prunty, his buddy's words resonate.

"Both of us know, when we're on the field it's business. We know what's at stake. We'll hang out once the season is done."

That's just a small indication of how serious and heated this rivalry has become.

When Prunty commited to Siena in the summer of 2010, Mabus was the first one to give the congrats call. Likewise, Prunty was hyped for Mabus after the Yorktown native penned with Towson.

 Following the righteous steps of a concert-line Division-I players from the Yorktown and Shrub Oak area, Prunty and Mabus have realized their childhood dream.

Mabus, who chose Towson over Fairfield, Maryland, and a bevy of others, has evolved into a key cog in the Tigers' offense. Playing before a spirited fan base at Johnny Unitas Stadium (a massive field which has a spanking-new feel to it), Mabus has popped four goals and dealt out nine assists while playing a supplementary role for the Tigers.

The sophomore has added muscle to a once-spindly frame. He’s bought into a program that’s battling for toast of the town rights with nearby Johns Hopkins and Loyola. Towson (7-5 overall) wrapped up back-to-back wins over Delaware (in OT) and no.15 Hofstra, winning both games by a 7-6 count.

At the same pace,The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Prunty has surfaced as Siena's trigger man.

Partly at his coaches’ urging, partly at his desire to hunt for his shot more, Prunty has popped 20 goals and dished out 10 assists as the team’s leading scorer.

 The sophomore middie, who chose Siena over UNC, Delaware, and Fairfield, bagged his first MAAC weekly award at the season's February start. A four-goal outburst against Johns Hopkins in the Saints’ opener was a portent of things to come.

Prunty boasts a pretty noteworthy athletic bloodline. He is the nephew of former Siena women’s hoops standout Michelle Collins.

Prunty’s younger brother, Siena-bound Brian Prunty, has surfaced as one of Westchester County’s premiere go-to-guys at Lakeland/Panas.

Everything seems to be suddenly coming into focus for Mabus and Prunty. Both players possess all-around athleticism, with a penchant for shooting on the fly, dodging and orchestrating plays.

"We play the same style," said Prunty.

"He's a big kid, he uses his size. He's got a great shot on the run. I feel like we're pretty similar. He can use his right hand or his left. He's quick. He plays good defense, so our styles are very similar."

On the field, the Lakeland-Panas/Yorktown rivalry is akin to bloodsport. The rivalry gets bigger and bigger, the mutual respect between these two lifetime lax bros stays the same.