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Panthers crowned Class B lacrosse champions

May 30th, 2012

Friday, Brian Graham, who coaches Wallkill’s boys’ lacrosse team, said something he had never said before. “Section 9 champions, Class B. Yes,” he said. “That’s the first time I was able to say that.”

Ryan Keller (left) and Matt Whalen celebrate after winning Wallkill's first sectional title.

Wallkill made history Friday by winning its first ever sectional title after becoming a varsity team in 2005. Graham played for them at the beginning and he guided them to that coveted sectional title over Saugerties 16-8 at Kingston’s Dietz Stadium.

Kenny Atkins started the scoring with a goal with 8:40 left in the first and the Panthers led 5-1 before Saugerties’ James Pederson scored with 1:39 left in the period as Wallkill led 5-2 at the end of the quarter.

Nick Ritosa scored his second goal of the game with 7:16 left in the second quarter as the Panthers led 6-3 at the half. Ritosa opened the third with a goal with 9:37 left in the quarter and then scored his fourth a little more than two minutes later to make it 9-5

After leading 11-7 at the end of the third quarter, the Panthers scored five straight goals before Billy Kirchner scored Saugerties’ final goal with less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter.

“It feels unreal,” said Ritosa, a senior, of finally winning a sectional title since joining the team as a freshman. “We hustled. We brought the pressure.”

Atkins, Ryan Keller and Matt Whalen each scored three goals for the Panthers. Kieran Miller also scored two goals for Wallkill ands Sean Matusch added another to help the Panthers.

“I’m very, very excited we were able to get here,” said Graham. “We started out really slow, and then we finished the season 9-5. I’m really proud of my kids.”

And the victory came against Saugerties, the Panthers’ annual nemesis after Wallkill started 0-3 and that was hampered by injuries and some players with academic issues.

“There’s always an intimidation factor because they’ve won every year,” said Graham, of Saugerties. “No matter what, they always throw us a different look, but this year, we came out very strong, even though they play very well.”

Graham had plenty of praise for the opponent, which has haunted the Panthers for many years. Mostly though, he was proud of his players for making history after a tough start this season.

“Those kids got their act together, and from there, they found themselves and played very well,” he said.

By Bond Brungard
sports@tcnewspapers.com

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