Possession, 6-0 Run Lifts Huskers Into State Final
All season, Yorktown has subscribed to the philosophy of working the defense until finding an open look. Forcing the issue or relying on one particular scorer has never been an option.
It doesn’t matter who gets the rock. If it’s a good clean look, that green light starts flashing.
Shouldering that selfless approach, the Huskers have installed a deep, rock-spreading offense which creates the slide and caters to the hot hand.
On Wednesday night, before a lively and animated bipartisan crowd at Hofstra University, Mike Dedvukaj’s shooting hand was damn near blazing.
The big Albanian sniper cocked back and drilled the far corner, scoring the first of three goals during a decisive 6-0 surge that lifted Yorktown to a 9-6 NYS/Class B semifinal victory over Lynbrook at Hofstra University Wednesday night.
Yorktown put up a fusillade of shots, all the way to Long Island’s rich lacrosse real estate.
The Huskers escaped with a monumental victory, punching a ticket to Saturday’s New York State title game against perenially-potent Jamesville-DeWitt.
It will be a rematch of the 2003 title, which the Huskers won 10-6.
It was Yorktown’s last state championship. The hungry Huskers seem hell-bent on quelling the drought while simultaneously making up for lost time.
Without Luke Palmadesso, the Huskers’ Villanova-bound senior workhorse, that game-altering six-goal splurge never occurs.
On the biggest stage of his career, the two-time All-American left his footmarks all over the field and his fingerprints all over the stat book. He scooped 13 ground balls up off the carpet. He captured 14 of 19 face-offs.
He deposited a goal and orchestrated the crisp passing game in the half-field set.
You might have even seen him selling programs and tickets at halftime. He had a hand in everything.
“Luke I think is probably the face-off kid in the country,” said Dedvukaj, a junior now entertaining Division-I interest from schools such as (fittingly for the occasion) Hofstra.
“Him getting those GBs and winning those face-offs for us was definitely a huge turning point for us in the game. We knew (Lynbrook) was good so we had to match that and go above that and we did…Whoever has the open shot, we take it. I guess I was just open.”
Getting open and fighting amid intensified coverage, Dedvukaj’s exploits awoke the offense, which had outscored opponents by an 80-19 margin entering the heavily-billed matchup.
Yorktown regained its vaunted fluidity after Dedvukaj’s insurance blast provided a 5-3 edge with 9:55 remaining in the third quarter.
They began to pile it on. Ryan Baker got free for a rip via Nick Delbene’s feed with 9:17 remaining. The lead swelled to 7-3 when Syracuse-bound Austin Fusco pick-pocketed a high-arching pass, motored out on the break and hit a streaking Connor Vercruysse for a quick catch-and-stick.
Baker, a junior UMBC-commit, capped the run by converting Nicky Bonitatibus’ dish into a quick mid-air rip.
The highly-decorated Long Island foes have had Yorktown’s number these past few seasons, most notably in previous state tournament games. Two seasons ago, on this very same Hofstra turf field, the Huskers were throttled by Garden City.
The Huskers knew the road to the state championship would include a long pass through in Long Island.
Four quarters of sustained relentlessness, with hustle plays and rebounds prolonging key possessions, propels them into the state championship game.
“The 6-0 run, that kind of seals the game right there,” said Vercruysse, a four-year player and two-time All-American.
“We came out hard, the legs were flying. Everyone’s getting a touch on the ball and you know, we just finished our shots. The rest is history.”
All day, word hung around the Meadowbrook Parkway about the scintillating duel between Palmadesso and Lynbrook’s Owen Daly, who captured 21 of 23 face-offs during the Owls’ wild 10-9 victory against Rocky Point.
This was no two-man battle. Nothing of the sort. Palmadesso’s nose for the rock out-dueled everyone on the turf. Possession proved pivotal.
The Huskers’ five losses are now a blurb in the rearview mirror. Yorktown reaped the results of grit-testing battles against top-shelf competition.
“I’d say we played one of the hardest schedules in 11 years,” said Fusco.
“It was all for this. (Coach Marr) wanted to prepare us against the best competition possible so we could do what we had to do, and win these type of games.”
Winning these types of games entailed a concentrated effort to contain Binghamton-bound senior attack Joe Grossi, who turned in a game-best four goals. Grossi, he of the manipulative one-on-one arsenal, scored the first two goals as the Owls took a 2-0 edge.
A bottle-up effort and increased physical play from Vercruysse (who severely leveled a defender during the fourth quarter) and senior long stick middie Tomas Rodriguez, minimized the carnage.
Rodriguez has specialized in limiting high-scorers, having neutralized Chaminade mudslinger Sean Cerrone during a signature win earlier in the season.
“The second half, we just stepped it up a notch,” Rodriguez explained.
“Their guys were starting to get tired, they don’t run as many guys as we do. We’re just going to try to get rolling into the state championship. That’s what our main goal is. This is just another stop in the road. We passed this, now we’re going to our real goal.”
Award-Winning Sports Journalist whose work is featured in numerous online sources - Bounce, SLAM, SNY, Rivals, and Hoops Addict - to name a few. Born in New York City, Mr. Smart is from Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.
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