MOORESTOWN – One thing good teams have in common is the need for a go-to guy; someone who can break through the clutter and deliver when times get tough.
For the Moorestown High School boys lacrosse team, more often than not, the player filling that role has been Frankie Labetti.
The senior was in top form Friday. His three goals, all coming in succession at the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third, helped the Quakers take control of a close game.
With Will Corbi also scoring all three of his goals in the second half, No. 1 Moorestown went on to gain the South Jersey Group 3 championship with an 11-6 win over No. 2 Shawnee.
On paper it appeared to be a showdown game, but the Quakers took control and never let up in the second half when they put together a closing 7-2 run.
They will now play for the state championship next week against the winner of Saturday’s matchup between Summit and Roxbury.
Labetti, who got the Quakers’ second-half roll started with two goals to open the third quarter, said the Quakers prepare for these kinds of games all season.
“We came in knowing this was a big South Jersey game, but we face one of the toughest schedules in the state,” he said. “Our schedule helps us prepare for these games, and makes it a little easier – which it showed.”
He delivered what was perhaps the biggest play of the game with seconds left in the first half.
A goal by Baily Pringle had given Shawnee a 4-3 lead with seven seconds left in the half. But Labetti won the ensuing faceoff and went down and tied the score with 2.1 second remaining in the half.
“I knew with seven seconds left on the clock, being down at the half wouldn’t be good,” Labetti said. “I was able to tie it up and make the score like it was 0-0 to start the second half.”
Later, Shawnee coach Erik Stilley admitted it would have been a nice little edge for his team to go into the half with a lead, however small. But he didn’t think that one goal was the game’s turning point.
“Whenever a goal happens with a few seconds left in the half it’s a little stinger,” he said. “That was one of the few goals they got on a fast-break, so I wasn’t too affected by it personally and I thought the boys were fine.
“I think the way we played in the second half was the difference – ground balls, time of possession. That’s what kind of hurt us.”
For Moorestown coach Baron Wallenhurst, Labetti’s late goal was able to salvage something out of what he described as a poor first half for his team.
“We didn’t do very well in the beginning,” he said. “Maybe it was a little bit jitters, a little bit nerves. I’m not really sure. But once we settled down and started to play our game it was much better.”
One of the keys to the second half for the Quakers was they were able to maintain possession of the ball.
Credit for that also went to Labetti, who is the team’s faceoff man, and whose job it is to help the team regain possession after scoring goals.
By maintaining possession and controlling the tempo of game in the second half, the Quakers were gradually able to pull away.
Labetti’s two opening goals were the first of three straight the Quakers scored while pitching a shutout in the third quarter.
With Quinn Willis scoring his second of two goals for the game, and Corbi adding his second, Moorestown extended the run to 6-0 into the fourth quarter to take a 10-4 lead.
Dan Wigley ended up scoring two goals for Shawnee, but the Quakers never got any kind of momentum going in the third or fourth quarter.