OCEAN TOWNSHIP — Going out on top was great for Zack Ornstein, but getting one last game with players he’s grown up with was the real treat for him on Wednesday night.

“I couldn’t really be happier finishing my career with my four brothers - Ryder Verdoni, Anthony Pozsonyi, Jake Sherman and Mark Buannic - I’ve been playing with them since elementary school,” said Ornstein, who was selected as the Most Valuable Player for his face-off domination  in the North All-Star team’s 12-8 victory over the South All-Stars in the Shore Conference Coaches Association Senior All-Star Game at Ocean.

“It’s great to be the MVP, and for my last high school game it’s a great way to go out.”

Ornstein scored a goal while winning nearly every face-off as the North unit jumped out to a 6-2 halftime lead and held off a late surge from the South quad. Buannic scored three goals with two assists and Sherman also had a hat trick with one assist.

Howell's Zack Ornstein presented with the MVP award by Shore Sports Network's Steve Meyer. (Photo by Ray Richardson).
Howell's Zack Ornstein presented with the MVP award by Shore Sports Network's Steve Meyer. (Photo by Ray Richardson).
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CBA midfielder Nick Gazzillo scored twice while Red Bank Catholic attackman Tim Barile, Freehold Township attackman Brandon Nunez and Rumson-Fair Haven midfielder Lucas Seckler each scored once. Nunez also had an assist, as did Verdoni. Holmdel goalie Justin Ruiz played the first half and made six saves and Freehold Township goalie Matt Schroepfer made four saves playing in the second half.

Ornstein made sure his squad had a huge possession advantage by winning every face-off in the first half and not losing one until the fourth quarter. It was an extension of his play during the season when he won 83 percent of draws to help Howell to a 13-4 record and a share of the Class A North division title for the best season in program history. He also scored a goal in the first quarter directly off a face-off win.

“I couldn’t have done it without my wings,” Ornstein said. “Having Verdoni out there was great chemistry and (Ocean midfielder) Steven Graziano and (Red Bank Catholic defenseman) Matt Pieringer were ground ball vacuums. If I could divide the trophy I would.”

Southern attackman Dylan Jinks led the South All-Stars with four goals while Jackson Memorial’s Troy Wolf had a goal and an assist. St. Rose midfielder Matt Frost, St. Rose defenseman Louis Melone and Southern midfielder Chris Smith also tallied. Southern’s Brendan Lefanto was the only goalie on the South roster and made nine saves playing the entire way.

Jinks went out in his final game like he came in - scoring. His four goals were a game-high, not surprising considering his unreal career totals. The Shore Conference’s all-time leading scorer ended his career with 420 points on 274 goals. He and the rest of Southern’s senior class that played on Wednesday - Smith, Lefanto, midfielder Shawn McManus and defenseman Mike Adragna - were the driving forces in turning Southern’s program in a powerhouse.

Southern head coach John Pampalone and attackman Dylan Jinks were selected as Coach and Player of the Year, respectively, by the Shore Conference Lacrosse Coaches Association. (Photo by Ray Richardson).
Southern head coach John Pampalone and attackman Dylan Jinks were selected as Coach and Player of the Year, respectively, by the Shore Conference Lacrosse Coaches Association. (Photo by Ray Richardson).
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“This class means a lot to me,” said Southern head coach John Pampalone. “It’s very rare when a group of kids comes right in and contributes, and it seems like they’ve been around forever. They’ve accomplished so many things and helped put Southern on the map for lacrosse. When I’m with the youth program you hear the kids saying ‘I’ll play Dylan’s spot, I’ll be Shawn and I’ll be Mike Adragna.' These guys made a legacy and with their achievements at Southern they’re all Hall of Famers in my book.”

The one sentiment that seemed to be agreed upon between all the players was how fast the last four years went by.

“When I was down in middle school a bunch of the older guys were preaching how quick it goes, and at that time you’re an immature kid and you have no idea what that means,” Jinks said. “I didn’t think it would fly by as quick as it did. I had a great time playing with my boys and I enjoyed every second of it.”

“It doesn’t really feel real ending it tonight with a bunch of my friends,” said Rumson defenseman Cooper Cuje. “I’ve played with all these guys growing up, so it’s weird saying goodbye one last time.”

Rumson made history by winning the NJSIAA Group I title, a first for a Shore Conference team. For Cuje, Seckler and midfielder Seamus Walsh, it was one last chance to soak in an incredible career.

“It was great coming back after we won group and having everyone congratulate us and to get one last game on the field with these guys,” Seckler said. “It was awesome and for me it’s set in now. It’s great to come out here and represent RFH.”

“It’ hasn’t set in for me yet,” Cuje said. “It will sometime, but it hasn’t yet. I still feel like I’m a freshman.”