UNION, N.J. - The perfect game might have been enough. Maybe.

A furious start, some sturdy defense, a few breaks. Maybe.

But the Moorestown boys' lacrosse team quickly fell behind, 3-0, and never fully recovered in a 9-5 loss to top-seeded Mountain Lakes last night in the semifinal round of the Tournament of Champions.

"Coming back against Lakes is a nightmare," Moorestown senior attack Jon Lefferts said. "They are so good. They deserve to be where they are."

Senior midfielder Brian Kasel scored four goals for Mountain Lakes (21-1), the defending T of C winner.

With the victory in the rain on the artificial turf at Kean University, Mountain Lakes advanced to Saturday's title game at Rutgers. The Lakers will meet second-seeded Delbarton, which beat Ridgewood, 10-4, in the other semifinal.

It will mark the fourth time in the five-year history of the boys' lacrosse Tournament of Champions that Mountain Lakes and Delbarton have met in the final.

"That's a heck of a team," Moorestown coach Baron Wallenhurst said. "We gave it our all, but that team is like No. 8 in the nation. They are so good at what they do."

Junior middie John Marcelli scored two goals for Moorestown (14-8), the Group 2 champion and No. 5 seed in the tournament.

"We had kind of an up-and-down season, but we won the state championship, so it's all good," Moorestown senior middie Dominic Sebastiani said. "We probably could have played a little better, but you have to give credit to Mountain Lakes. They are a great team."

Moorestown never led. Mountain Lakes took a 3-0 lead in the game's first six minutes as junior midfielder Chase Winter scored a pair of goals.

Marcelli and Lefferts scored as Moorestown rallied to close within 3-2, and the Quakers kept in contention through the second quarter. Moorestown used goals by Sebastiani and Marcelli to close within 4-3 and 5-4, respectively, but could never pull even with Mountain Lakes.

The Lakers got a goal from sophomore middie Kevin Ryan to stretch their lead to 6-4 at the half, then controlled play in a deliberate third quarter. The Group 1 champions from the Colonial Hills Conference got goals from Kasel and senior middie Sean Kirwan to build their lead to 8-4, then rode strong defensive play and a solid game by senior goalie Ian Bolland to a berth in the championship game.

"I'm so proud of these kids," Wallenhurst said, standing in the rain in front of Moorestown's bench area. "They had a great season. They came so far after a little bit of a slow start.

"You hate to see it end, but you have to give credit to Mountain Lakes. You always think you can play a little bit better, but that's such a great team over there, and once we got behind, it just was tougher and tougher."

Moorestown 2 2 0 1 - 5

Mountain Lakes 3 3 2 1 - 9

MO: John Marcelli 2, Jon Lefferts, Dominic Sebastiani, Shane Collier. ML: Brian Kasel 4, Chase Winter 2, Sean Kirwan 2, Kevin Ryan.

Saves: MO: Tom Lynam: 5. ML: Ian Bolland: 8.

Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223 or panastasia@phillynews.com