The one-game-at-a-time axiom Mountain Lakes has operated under for decades had helped guide it through a particularly rough stretch a few weeks back and provided step-by-step counsel right up to the Morris County Tournament final.
But when that next big day arrived, the Lakers were suddenly obstinate about playing for just one game. No, the way Rob Orazietti, Jon Broome and the rest of their mates charged through the offense in the opening four minutes, the Lakers seemed to be gunning to make up for three lost years in the MCT annals.
Mountain Lakes netted four goals on four shots in those opening minutes to build a quick four-goal lead and roll on to a 12-4 victory over Kinnelon for its record 12th championship Wednesday night on the campus of FDU Florham.
"We came out so strong in the first five minutes, I didn't know if we would be able to keep that intensity level up," Lakes head coach Tim Flynn said. "And they did. I give them all the credit in the world."
Broome collected two goals and four assists to snare MVP honors, Orazietti recorded three goals and two assists and Chris Cuccinello scored three times to steer third-seeded Mountain Lakes (12-3), No. 6 in the MSG Varsity Power Rankings, to a fifth consecutive victory. Kinnelon, seeded fifth and ranked No. 13, fell to 9-9 and lost to Lakes for the second time this season.
Flynn's seniors had run the risk of becoming the first class at the school to go through its four years without seeing an MCT title. And while that thought probably was not prevalent among the offensive group by game time, it sure was a preoccupation the last few days.
"We definitely knew that," Orazietti said. "We haven't won the counties since 2008, and that's a long time here. It's great for the team, the seniors, and Coach Flynn."
Orazietti sparked the torrid rush to the cage when he cut to the crease off a feed by Broome 1:23 into the game. Spencer Herman, Cuccinello and Dylan Muti all followed with goals at the doorstep over the next 2:34 and Muti connected again 4:07 later for a 5-0 lead.
"We knew going into the game that our attackmen could beat their D poles," Orazietti said. He leads the Lakers with 39 goals, including 10 in four county games. "Me and Broome, we took it to them early.
"That really set the tone for the rest of the game," he said. "I felt like we really knocked them off this field pretty early. Credit to our goalie (Jared Bernstein), the defense, faceoffs; it all led to great offense."
These were not sentiments shared by Mountain Lakes players just a few weeks back. Their club was battered by Delbarton, 17-7, April 21 in a regular-season game, and would lose two of the next three, including a 14-3 setback to Don Bosco Prep May 3.
Lakes--one of the state's most successful programs ever--had found itself in the most unusual position of having nowhere to go but up. One rung at a time.
"I have to give it to all my seniors for the leadership they've shown the last three weeks," Flynn said. "We were kind of batted around a little bit, and the kids knew we had to work on things.
"We came ready for practice every day and got incrementally better every day. It's a great group of kids. They're really showing what they're made of."
Mike Sanzone and Sam Walsh did outstanding work on faceoffs to continually furnish possession for the offense, and the defense did their part by never allowing Kinnelon to get very comfortable in its offensive end.
"It was nice to see everyone click. Everyone's on the same cylinder now," senior defenseman Tyler Batesko said. He helped protect Bernstein (seven saves) along with fellow defenders Dan Badolato, Chris Robertson, Scott Flynn, Evan Bernstein, Merrill and Louie Bellucci.
"Everything is going the right way now and everyone's going as hard as they can," he said. "It's just a great feeling to know everyone is giving their all and we're producing."
Mountain Lakes rebounded from its lopsided loss to Don Bosco with a surprising 5-3 victory over a very good Shoreham/Wading River team from Long Island. It then spun off three MCT wins, including a 10-8 decision over Delbarton last Saturday in the semifinals, exactly three weeks after that 10-goal blowout.
"We were a little down on ourselves, but coach pushed us to keep going," Broome said. He came up with three goals and two assists in the most recent Delbarton game, while Orazietti chipped in with two goals, two assists.
"We knew we had the talent to win the county championship, and hopefully go on to do well in the states," Broome said. "We'll just keep working in practice and get better every day."
Mountain Lakes got single goals from Orazietti and Cuccinello in the first five minutes of the second quarter to go up, 7-1, and the lead grew to 9-2 in the third period on shots by Cuccinello and Herman.
The Lakers' offense showed similar explosiveness at the beginning of the season, only to hit that snag in mid-April. The Lakes defense helped loosen that knot by physically and mentally challenging the offense much harder than they ever would be in games.
"We're doing one-on-ones every day," Broome said. "We're just pushing each other big time. Our practices are more like games."
Kobi Frankel scored two goals and Brian Gnad and Dom Ucinowicz had one apiece for Kinnelon. John Calia made 10 saves for Kinnelon and Bernstein had six for the Lakers.
Mike Kinney covers boys lacrosse for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS