Jimmy Puckey doesn’t even like lacrosse. But now, he’s a champion.
“It’s not my favorite sport,” Puckey said. “It’s nothing like football, but you have to do what you have to do. You have to play.”
What would get him to like the sport more?
“More hitting,” he said. “Less getting hit with the ball also helps.”
What Puckey does between the pipes is special. And he did it for his Wildcats, making save after save when it counted to help Shoreham-Wading River to its first Long Island championship title since 2012, with an 8-6 win over Garden City Saturday at Hofstra University.
“Jimmy might not like lacrosse, but he’s playing for his friends, and he has such a passion for his brothers that he doesn’t want to let them down,” head coach Mike Taylor said. “He might not like lacrosse, but he loves his friends.”
It was a different first quarter from what teams have recently seen from the Wildcats, and junior Kevin Cutinella stole the show, finishing the game with four goals on five shots.
The midfielder scored early unassisted, and junior attack Chris Gray added a tally off an assist from senior attack Jason Curran with a man-up advantage for the 2-0 lead.
“He doesn’t panic, and we lean on him because he calms everyone down,” Taylor said of Cutinella. “He’s just a great kid.”
Puckey clipped the ball and made a save seven seconds later, and at the 5:42 mark, Cutinella scored his second goal off a pass from senior midfielder Jon Constant to finish a 3-0 run.
Garden City saved a shot by junior midfielder Joe Miller, and Puckey made another block before Garden City put its first point on the board with 1:40 left to end the scoring for the first quarter.
“Communication was key, not making too many errors on offense and just playing fast,” Cutinella said. “Just playing our game.”
Garden City scored four unanswered goals to take the lead, but Cutinella wasn’t having any of it, and passed the ball to junior Joe Miller who, with a back-door cut, leaped in front of the net and dumped it in for the tying goal with 22.8 seconds left in the first half.
“We have said that we haven’t really played four complete quarters, and I think even today, we played a great first quarter, a poor second quarter, and then a great third and fourth,” Taylor said. “I’m still waiting for four full quarters and when we do that I think we’ll win a state championship.”
Gray received two feeds from Miller, but both shots were blocked with Garden City heavily defending the team’s top scorer.
With 4:52 left in the third, Cutinella scored unassisted for his hat trick goal.
“They had the long pole on Jonny [Constant] which led me to have the shortstick defensive midfielder on me and I just took advantage of that,” Cutinella said. “We weren’t talking in the beginning and then we changed that around, and when our defense plays good, our offense plays good.”
After a few missed Wildcat shots, Constant scored unassisted for a 6-4 advantage with 27 seconds left in the quarter.
“We never beat Garden City and it was great to beat them here in my senior year,” he said. “We had to stop them on defense first and then we had to put them in on offense with great ball movement. The chemistry is good and it’s been a fun ride.”
Puckey, knowing what to do to secure the lead, batted the ball out of bounds to his left with 1.2 seconds on the clock.
“He just showed up and is playing his A game,” Cutinella said. “He likes lacrosse now.”
Cutinella’s parents, pre-planned, but surprisingly to their son, presented the team with the championship plaque.
“Seeing them on the field made my day even more,” he said. “You can’t really put the words together for that stuff. It’s a great experience and I love them. They’ve been there for me.”
Cutinella said this win means everything, adding that the team had one goal at the beginning of the season, and they’ve almost achieved it.
Taylor is also proud to see his team come through with this kind of success after the school scored its second consecutive Long Island championship crown in football this school year.
“This is what you work for the entire year and to see all the hard work pay off and to get to this moment, this is what you play for,” he said. “We’ll celebrate today, but I think now we have unfinished business. I have a lot of the football players on this squad and I think some of their successes is translating over onto the lacrosse field. The kids are playing well in big moments.”
He’s sad to see this season coming to a close, but couldn’t be more thrilled for the special moments these boys have had throughout this memorable season.
“The saddest moment is realizing right now I have four more practices left with these kids,” he said. “Having limited time with a special group of kids, I wish it could go on forever.”
One of the most special moments so far, was for him to see Cutinella receive the plaque from his parents, especially after the game he’d had.
“That’s an ironic moment — especially when it was planned prior to this — for him to have that type of game,” he said, fighting back tears. “These kids have been through so much tragedy, they just deserve this. I think someone might be looking down from above.”