Dec 21, 2018

bantam champs.jpg(December 21, 2018)… The inaugural season of the Jr. Knighthawks Youth Box Lacrosse League (YBLL) came to an exciting conclusion Monday night with the crowning of three champions. The final week of playoffs ended the eight-week program that featured 130 local kids, playing under USBOXLA rules.

“Every week it was fun to work with the same group of kids from this area who want to play the game and get better,” said YBLL coach and former National Lacrosse League player Jacques Monte. “The more we do this, the better we are going to be. We have done clinics, sessions and gone to tournaments, but this league was the best thing.”

Championship Monday kicked off with the Pee Wee Division title game, which included the top two teams in the Purple and White clubs. Despite yielding the first goal of the contest, the White side scored the next six in the first half and never looked back, winning 9-2. The league’s leading scorer, James Holbrough, led the way with five goals and three assists, while teammate Miles McGuire added a three-point effort (2+1). Holbrough, who finished the season with 37 points, was named the Pee Wee Division MVP.

YBLL-champions-peewee.jpg“It was so much fun,” said James’ dad, Cory, who coached Pee Wee and Bantam teams. “I remember watching the first two practices, where the kids had never played box before and learned they could move and set picks. These kids grew so much and had so much fun playing. At the end (of the season), you can see that excitement. It was awesome coaching them.”

In the third-place game, Teal avenged a regular-season loss to Black, by handing its rival an 11-8 loss. Teal’s Grant Lewis notched three goals and two assists as his team built a 7-3 lead and held off an early second-half comeback bid. Black was powered by a five-goal outing from Colin Wheeler and a four-point night (1+3) from Brodie Joyce.

The Bantam Division featured the evening’s most competitive championship game, as the contest went to the ninth shooter in the shootout. White captured the crown, 11-10, on Jeremy Askin’s clutch goal, while goalie Kyle Meagher stopped eight of nine shooters to pick up the win. Askin’s goal capped off a three-goal rally to win the first-ever Bantam Division championship.

Goals by Bantam MVP James Canipe (3+4) and Nate Michel (3+0) sent the game to the shootout. Michel also scored a pivotal goal in the best-of-three portion of the shootout, which forced six single-elimination rounds. Purple got a five-point performance from Aiden Clinkscales (3+2) and three goals from Quinn Whipple.

“It was such a close league at that group, so it was the perfect ending,” said White team head coach and Knighthawks Academy Director Brad Gillies.

In the Bantam third-place game, Black controlled the game from start to finish in a 7-4 win. Teal did put some pressure on White early in the second by scoring the first two goals to cut the deficit to 4-2. Black, however, regrouped and went on a 3-0 run to secure the victory. Rob Taddeo scored two of those goals as part of a three-goal game. Santino Giachetti was the top point man for Teal with one goal and one assist.

Black team coach Donny Moss, who has played at an elite level in the field and box game, commented on the advantages of playing in the Youth Box Lacrosse League.

“I was telling my team, ‘I don’t know if I am as good as I am without box,’” said Moss, who plays in Major League Lacrosse and has played for the U.S. box lacrosse team. “These kids are going to benefit from playing these six weeks and, hopefully, take a little bit with them to their next lacrosse endeavor.”

Moss coached teams at all three age groups, which included the winning high school team. In the nightcap, his White club used a 4-0 run to erase a two-goal deficit in a 7-5 win over Teal. The Teal side opened the second half with back-to-back goals to take a 5-3 lead as Hayden Hemlock netted his third of the night and Ethan Shappee scored his second of the contest. But, the White team would not be denied the title as it received two from David Gutman and single tallies from Steven Ziekle and Cole Beardsley.

Blythe-Midget-MVP.jpg“It was a lot of fun, and I just enjoyed being out here,” said High School MVP Matthew Blythe, who led the division with 15 points. “It’s always awesome to come out and play lacrosse.”

Teal put a ton of pressure on the White defense in the closing minutes, but goalie Bair Jacobs came up with several remarkable saves to preserve the win. It was a great way to finish the first year of the YBLL.

“I couldn’t be happier with what has transpired in Year One of the box league,” said Gillies. “The officiating kept getting better, and the gameplay got faster and more skilled and more like real box. It was a real pleasure to see the overall improvement in the league.”

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