LONG BRANCH -- Joe Tonkovich is known more for his passing and playmaking ability, but with the ball in his stick for the biggest shot of his career, the Manasquan senior didn't miss.

Tonkovich finished off a scintillating passing play on a feed from sophomore Canyon Birch with 44 seconds to play in regulation, lifting top-seeded Manasquan to an epic 8-7 victory over No. 2 Rumson-Fair Haven to give the Warriors the 2017 Shore Conference Tournament title. It is the first SCT title for Manasquan, the oldest lacrosse program in the Shore.

"It's an incredible feeling to get the win and have the game-winning goal as a senior, I mean you can't write it up any better than that," Tonkovich said. "It's an amazing feeling."

A back-and-forth game from the start, Manasquan had taken a 7-6 lead with 2:45 left to play when senior midfielder Devan Carroll faked a shot, dodged and whipped a shot past Rumson goalie Conor Deverin for an extra-man goal. Rumson, however, would go on to tie the game, 7-7, when senior attackman Charlie Curran spun around his defender to free up shooting space and scored with 54 seconds left.

The ensuing face-off was won by Rumson but Manasquan senior FOGO Matt Thermann stuck with the play and jarred the ball loose with a stick check. Sophomore midfielder James Pendergist picked up the ground ball and raced into the Rumson zone to start a sequence that went from Jarrett Birch to Canyon to Tonkovich for the game-winning goal. Tonkovich had a tough angle to shoot from and had to score on the backhand over Deverin's stick.

"I saw James pick it up and I knew it was going to be a fast-break opportunity," Tonkovich said. "Right to Jarrett, right to Canyon, right over to me. It was a little tight but I handled it and put it in somehow. It was a little Canadian over-the-shoulder shot. I put it in whatever way I could."

Carroll finished with a team-high three goals while Jarrett Birch and Tonkovich each scored twice and senior midfielder Pat Felstedt scored once. Canyon Birch had three assists, including the deft pass on Tonkovich's title-clinching goal. Senior goalie Tom Pollock made six saves.

Curran had a hat trick for Rumson while senior attackman Colin Pavluk had two goals and one assist. Senior midfielder Bryan Hess and senior attackman Alex Werner each scored once and Deverin made nine saves.

"It's our first Shore Conference Tournament championship and for it to come against Rumson it means a whole lot for the program," said senior defenseman Kyle LeBlanc.


Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights. 


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