When the North gained possession during the Under Armour All-America Boys Lacrosse Game on Saturday night, the midfielders often pushed the tempo in transition.
And when that happened, attackman Connor DeSimone knew where to go: to the post, waiting for a feed.
The Johns Hopkins commit’s strategy worked.
His five points, tied for a game high, on three goals and two assists came during the North’s second-quarter run that built the cushion for the team’s 18-16 victory and earned the Smithtown East graduate Most Valuable Player recognition.
“I kind of just like plopped myself on the crease,” DeSimone said. “They were kind of just putting it on my stick, and I was scoring all the goals.”
DeSimone’s performance, which also included six ground balls and two caused turnovers, at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson came about 15 minutes from the Blue Jays’ Homewood Field, where he’s eager to start “the next chapter” in the fall.
But before relocating from St. James, N.Y., he cherished the opportunity Saturday night to play on the North squad that featured a plethora of teammates he’s met through club lacrosse and on the recruiting showcase circuit.
One of them — midfielder Ryan O’Connell — has proclaimed himself “first-team all-grit,” DeSimone said, so throughout preparation for the national televised all-star game, the North players dubbed themselves the “grit squad.”
That’s the mindset that propelled the team’s second-quarter surge and DeSimone’s personal run, attackman Tehoka Nanticoke said after a two-goal, two-assist outing, because the North focused on the “dirty areas” like clearing, ground balls and faceoffs.
O’Connell started it with a goal in transition about three minutes into the period.
Then came DeSimone.
On his first goal, which tied the game at 6, the 5-foot-11, 190-player scooped a turnover deep in the South’s defensive zone. The goalkeeper couldn’t return to the net before DeSimone connected.
The netminder was in position for DeSimone’s second score less than a minute later, but a dish from Nanticoke and a series of stick fakes on the crease made the attackman the first player to score multiple goals Saturday night.
After an assist to midfielder Matt Licciardi to extend the North’s lead to 8-6, DeSimone finished his hat trick with a shot from the left of the cage, capitalizing on another turnover from the South goalkeeper.
With five second left in the second quarter, DeSimone finished the North’s 9-1 run with a feed to midfielder Colby Barker.
“It was just on the spur of the moment,” DeSimone said of his production. “They were looking for me, and I was open a lot of the time. I was finding those seams and they were just finding me.”
North midfielder James Avanzato, a Maryland commit from Lake Grove, N.Y., had three assists — tied for third in the game’s history — and he wasn’t surprised to see DeSimone recognized for his success.
The two have played club lacrosse together since seventh grade, and during their time with Long Island’s Tenacious Turtles, Avanzato has admired DeSimone’s drive and passion for the sport.
“He always comes in with a great attitude,” Avanzato said. “He’s the hardest worker whenever we’re on the field, and he’s unselfish. We love playing with him.”
After working as one of the North midfielders pushing transition opportunities throughout the game, Avanzato said he had a good view for watching DeSimone finish the charge.
Said Nanticoke: “We got the best middies in the country, so that was nice taking pressure off the attack. We had nice middies going up and down the field doing all the hard work, and seeing [DeSimone] do that, the goals there were just nice.”