By Desirée Keegan
John Kazubowski said he normally doesn’t score goals, but if he told you that Tuesday, he’d be lying.
The Smithtown West senior forward scored a hat trick to lead the No. 3-ranked Bulls, 4-2, over No. 14 East Islip in the first round of the Class AA playoffs.
Just over 10 minutes into the first half, Kazubowski went to knock the ball deeper into East Islip’s territory from the 30-yard line, only to hit the top of the crossbar and bounce into the right corner of the net for a good goal and the 1-0 lead.
In shock, the forward threw his hands up in disbelief as the crowd erupted.
“I don’t usually shoot during the season a lot, so I thought, ‘Hey, might as well,’” he said. “I had space so I took it and it came out nice, I guess.”
Minutes later, an East Islip player escaped defenders and on a one-on-one with the goalkeeper, knocked it into the right corner to tie the game.
Smithtown West head coach Tom Lips said that since his team was going against a low seed, the other team knew they had to give it their all if they wanted to progress through the bracket.
“They have everything to loose, but more importantly, we’ve had two starters out of our consistent lineup,” he said of junior defender Reed Massaro and sophomore midfielder Andrew McDonnell who were both injured in the last game of the regular season. “We’ve had no injuries until the last game of the season and this is our first game playing without them, so it obviously affected us greatly — especially in our back line where we’re very thin defensively.”
Despite Kazubowski scoring again in the eighth minute off an assist from senior midfielder and co-captain Matt McDonnell, East Islip tied it up, 2-2, off a foul kick four minutes later.
“I don’t think we rose emotionally to the occasion,” Lips said. “I think the other team outworked us. Do I think we’re a better team? Yes, but they outworked us. We have talent, it’s just we weren’t cohesive, pretty much played their style and it’s a compliment to them. We just weren’t good today.”
The Bulls opened up the second half with an early attempt, but couldn’t capitalize, which happened multiple times throughout the game.
“We came a little not awake in the first half and it was a tough one, but we rallied through the second half,” Kazubowski said. “We have to play better in the next round if we want to do something big this season. We have to wake up for the next round and produce something better.”
At the 21:53 mark, the senior forward proved he couldn’t be stopped, when he grabbed a tipped rebound in front of the box and faked out the keeper, shooting the ball into an empty right side for the 3-2 advantage.
“We didn’t play our best, but we definitely came back after they scored a goal or two and pushed in the end,” Matt McDonnell said. “I think we were physically a little more fit toward the end of the game, which helped us.”
With 15:09 left on the clock, McDonnell took a penalty kick shot after a teammate was blocked on a breakaway, and he shot it past a diving East Islip goalkeeper for the 4-2 win.
“I think we were just able to persevere,” he said. “We had a few missed plays and couldn’t finish a few opportunities, but we worked hard and got back in it. If we come together as a team we can go far.”
Smithtown West hasn’t lost a game since Sept. 16, when the team fell to crosstown rival Smithtown East, 1-0, and are now 14-1-1. The Bulls move on to host No. 11 Half Hollow Hills West on Friday at 2 p.m.
No. 16 East lost its outbracket game at home against No. 17 Sachem North, 3-1, on Oct. 24.