On a night when Boca Raton High School opened their hearts to one of their own Benjamin opened their playoff run.
Look out Florida.
And taught me a lesson . . . stop making predictions in podcasts.
If you are a Boca fan let’s get the positives out of the way early. It was not a playoff game and it didn’t make any difference in seedings.
And the fundraising efforts were very successful. Even in the face of poor afternoon weather and a precipitous drop in temperature by game time a large crowd turned out to not only see a marquee game but to help out a family that needed a helping hand. Although I didn’t know it until Saturday my family had a connection to this too and I need to thank my son Alex, a graduate of Boca High last year for pointing it out. One of the sons of the Ely family, Kiko, was a friend of Alex starting around 6th grade, when I guess they met at Omni Middle School. We parents don’t always pay close attention to our kid’s friends as long as they are not getting into trouble and frankly I didn’t make the connection until he reminded me of it.
Thank you Alex.
During halftime Mr. Aman reminded all of us to love our kids.
That’s one reminder I didn’t need . . . thankfully.
When I was growing up on Long Island one of the TV stations started a Sunday night half-hour sport’s show. In today’s day of ESPN Sportscenter and the many imitators that seems like nothing to today’s kids. But in the mid-70’s this was revolutionary; it hadn’t been done before. The show, Sports Extra, was hosted by Lee Leonard (who actually went on to become the first anchorman when ESPN first started) and Bill Mazer. Bill died last year at age 92 and amazingly worked on radio into his mid-late 80’s.
As they signed off the air every Sunday night Bill would turn to the camera and say ‘Goodnight Arnie’. He never really explained why he did that but a few years later I found out almost incidentally. He was saying goodnight to his son Arnie every Sunday, which was his way of showing his love for his son. And how did I find this out? Arnie was a junior when I was a freshman at Hobart. One day, during my first parent’s weekend I noticed Bill Mazer on campus. And it finally hit home.
What a nice way to do it.
I think it would be a good thing for now on to end some of my articles the same way.
Of course, the readers of this website don’t all have such a forum to do this. But for this night I’ll say it for all of us . . .
Good night kids. We love you.
Mr. Ely, this one is for you.
Good night Kiko. Sleep well. Dad’s still watching.
And Kiko, if you need it, email me so I can give you Alex’s phone number.
I don’t really know where to start with this one so I’ll just quote Boca Raton Head Coach Chris Holly who said after the game “that is one heck of a good team over there”. When I asked some stupid follow-up question next, he said again “that really is one heck of a team we played tonight”.
I’m a slow learner at times.
Benjamin only shot the ball 24 times and 14 of them were on net. 13 of the 14 found their way into the cage. Coach Holly said it succinctly “I can’t expect my goalie to make those saves, they’re inside the 5×5”.
For those who need a translation it goes like this: Benjamin’s offense patiently worked the ball until they got great looks inside the prime scoring areas and made them count.
Boy, I’ll say.
It really was a chess match between the Boca defense and the Benjamin offense. In Boca’s favor was that their defense did cause a lot of turnovers (24 total for Benjamin) and held up well given how much time Benjamin possessed the ball. But the Boca offense struggled mightily as they pressed too hard to make up the deficit they fell into and that started to snowball. They rushed good opportunities and passes missed the mark near the cage. And when they did get looks Anthony Cicio came up with one of his 9 saves.
But this one was over at halftime. Yes, I know that is a risky statement if made at the time, since the last time these two teams met at Boca, Benjamin managed to lose an even bigger halftime lead. But miracle comebacks don’t happen too often or they wouldn’t be miraculous.
Boca actually opened the scoring in the first minute as Ryan Clinton found Phil Duval cutting to the net from right goal line extended and Duval put home the shot with a quick stick low and it was 1-0 at 11:03.
Midway through the first Benjamin responded with 3 goals inside 45 seconds. Andrew Packer, (who played an All-American level game for the benefit of the voters) took a Trevor Ross pass off a quick restart in front of the net at 6:18 to tie it up. 30 seconds later Griffin Bowie scored unassisted as he worked the left wing and fired a right-handed shot to the low right corner and just 13 seconds later Packer dodged to the middle from the right wing and placed a left-hand shot low to the left side and it was suddenly 3-1. It happened so fast that it had to unsettle Boca.
Boca responded at 2:25 on the EMO on a terrific look from Christian Mauro to Ryan Clinton, as he found Clinton sneaking out from behind the net to the left crease and the lengthy diagonal pass gave him plenty of time to make it 3-2 and the game looked to settle down.
But with just 20 seconds left Packer turned the game in Benjamin’s favor for good as he stepped in and fired from the left wing, finding the low, far side of the net and the first quarter finished 4-2. In retrospect this was a goal that made a lot of difference. Not because it made the game 4-2 but because it kept Boca from establishing the momentum off the EMO goal. And something else that was happening at this point was Benjamin establishing dominance at the face-off circle. Putting both that goal and the face-offs together and you could see the feeling of the game evolve. Benjamin outshot Boca 9-4 in the first and won 5 of the 6 face-offs.
And in the second it really kicked in.
Benjamin outscored Boca 5-0 in the period to take a 9-2 lead into halftime, completely taking the home crowd out of the game. This was a big crowd and a closer game would have seen Boca get a lift but it never became a factor.
Ryan Silvester started the quarter at 11:04 taking McKenna Johnston’s right alley feed on the left crease and beating Boca’s Matt Digney for 5-2. At 7:42 Will Nicklaus made it 6-2 taking Christian Cropp’s right goal line extended feed as he cut to the middle and quickly got off a hard shot on the run as he was hit perfectly in stride. Colin O’Hare then added an EMO goal unassisted on a left wing face dodge to the middle, shooting right-handed to the far side at 5:02. Just 37 seconds later Bowie took advantage of another quick re-start as Silvester found him on the left wing from behind the left side of the net and Bowie placed it waist high on the right side for 8-2. Then Packer scored his fourth of the half unassisted on a delayed penalty with just 6 seconds left, completing a lightning-quick spin dodge on the left wing before firing right-handed to the far side for 9-2.
Boca only got off 3 shots in the period, and only 7 for the half as Benjamin went 9 for 12 on face-offs and showed lengthy possession. It takes a lot to break down down Boca’s defense and Benjamin was able to eventually do so because they handled the ball so well last night.
The second half showed no sign of a Boca revival. At 9:44 Bobby O’Leary made it 10-2, taking Patrick Clancy’s high left wing feed down on the lower left wing and fired high-to-high on the short side. Then at 5:45 Packer ended his day as he cut to the middle from the right wing and lasered a shot against the grain, hitting the high, right corner for 11-2. Boca got one back late in the period when Harrison Rodermor intercepted a clearing pass near midfield and fired a lengthy pass to Nick McCabe, who caught it in the right alley, took a few steps and fired his own bullet into the right-hand upper corner to make it 11-3 after 3.
Boca started the fourth quickly with Duval scoring his second, from Clinton on EMO, as Clinton made a diagonal feed from left wing to the right crease and Duval easily scored on the one-on-one to make it 11-4 at 11:44. But any hopes for a late rally were dashed as Benjamin scored twice in 44 seconds to put it away. Silvester and Johnston teamed up again at 8:03 and Johnston followed that up unassisted at 7:19 as he got off a middle shot after fighting off his check. Boca added a couple of consolation goals by Clinton and McCabe to make the final 13-6.
For the two teams this was a non-District game that will prepare them for the playoffs. For Benjamin it was an affirmation of how they are now playing, and the level they can achieve. Although they lost both games to the MIAA teams on their road trip the results of those games were likely the turning point for their season as they found a more team-oriented offensive approach. Seven players scored last night and three others added assists. The turnaround in record started with the big Jupiter win and has carried through and the team is peaking at just the right time.
For Boca, strangely this loss might well be an important reminder of what got them to this point in the season and an interesting parallel to last year. Last year, in the regular season, Boca was manhandled by Saint Andrew’s in the regular season in a similar fashion to last night but they learned from it and in the re-match nearly took SA down in the District finals. These two teams could meet again, but only if both get by difficult paths to get to the regional finals. This game could help Boca to re-focus on what they do best, which did not come out last night.
Good luck to both teams as they gear up for Districts. Boca ends the regular season with a tough home game against Jensen Beach on Thursday while Benjamin host Martin County on Friday. Thanks to both coaches for talking to me both before and after the game.
Thanks to the large crowd for making the fundraising a success and to the other schools who have and will participate in the future to help out a great cause.
And Good Night Alex, your Dad loves you.
Faceoffs: Benjamin 14-6
Shots: Benjamin 24 – Boca 23
Shots on Goal: Boca 15 – Benjamin 14
Turnovers: Benjamin 24 – Boca 17
Penalties: Boca 6 – Benjamin 2
Andrew Packer 5G
Griffin Bowie 2G
McKenna Johnston 1G/2A
Ryan Silvester 2G/1A
Will Nicklaus, Colin O’Hare and Bobby O’Leary 1G each
Patrick Clancy, Christian Cropp and Trevor Ross 1A each
Ryan Clinton 2G/2A
Nick McCabe and Phil Duval 2G each
Christian Mauro and Harrison Rodermor 1A each