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Garden City

By Bill Landon

Garden City’s five unanswered goals to open the Long Island championship game against Harborfields were hard to counter. The Tornadoes closed within three early in the third quarter but fell 12-3 in the Class B title game at Hofstra University June 2.

“They went from being 4-3 to taking it to Garden City for the Long Island championship,” head coach Glenn Lavey said. “They won’t get perspective right now [because] it’s hard to realize that a couple of minutes after you lose a tough game, but they will eventually realize all the special things they did.”

Freshman attack Stephen Markowski scored Harborfields’ first goal with four minutes remaining in the first half, and senior midfielder Jimmy Bifulco brought the score to 5-2 at the 10:51 mark of the third quarter, but it was as close as the team would come.

The Tornadoes were swept away after Garden City score six unanswered goals from the end of the third to the beginning of the fourth.

Junior Aiden Costello caught a pass from senior midfielder P.J. Clementi for Harborfields’ final goal of the game with three minutes remaining.

“[Garden City] has great players and great coaches,” Lavey said .”But at least you can say that today, we lost to a better team.”

Harborfields ends the season with a 13-4 record, outscoring opponents 192-118, and brought home the school’s first Suffolk County championship since 1992. Clementi, who will play for Amherst College next spring, ranks fifth among Suffolk County’s leading scorers with 57 goals 40 assists for a total of 97 points.

Also continuing their lacrosse careers are Bifulco, who committed to Adelphi University; Andy Derasmo, who will compete for St. Joseph’s University; and Mike Pasquaretta, who signed to play for Assumption College. Midfielder Tommy DeVito will remain teammates with long-stick midfielder Lucas Kollmer — both will compete at SUNY Geneseo.

Sean Haplin shoots past a diving West Babylon goalkeeper. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Jitters are to be expected when a freshman takes the field for the first time, but looking at Shoreham-Wading River’s Jake Naso, you wouldn’t know it.

Jake Naso carries the ball into West Babylon’s zone after gaining possession. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The freshman won 22 of 25 faceoffs to give the boys’ lacrosse team the possession it needed to come away with a 17-4 nonleague win over West Babylon May 2.

“I felt good,” Naso said of his first varsity start, smiling. “I’m getting used to it, and I hope to take more in the future.”

Naso was a piece of the total team puzzle, with the Wildcats outscoring the Eagles 7-2 in the first quarter.

“We got up on them early and that affected the whole outcome of the game,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Mike Taylor said. “I thought that we were very crisp and we did the things we wanted to do right away. I’m very happy with the boys executing what we practiced to run against them.”

He also liked seeing 10 athletes sprinkling the score sheet with points throughout the afternoon.

Chris Gray scoops up the ground ball with a defender on his back. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We’ve been trying to get to that level — creating a team concept offensively,” Taylor said. “And now we’re getting guys more game experience, and with Jake winning the faceoffs, that’s going to be huge for us depth-wise. We already have a good faceoff guy with Joe [Miller] so to have two guys, we’re almost spoiled.”

Highlighting the offense was senior Chris Gray, who contributed five goals and five assists. Most notable, was Gray’s score off a cross-field pass from James Mirabell. With West Babylon’s goalkeeper out of the net after carrying the ball to the opposite end of the field, Gray grabbed hold of the pass and dribbled it in mid-air until getting a good enough hold to whip a shot behind his back and into the back of the cage as goalkeeper Mark Esposito tried to get back between the pipes.

James Mirabell and Chris Sheehan defend against a West Babylon attack. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We were relaxed on offense and then the defense got a big turnover,” Gray said. “The ball was bouncing in and out of my stick and I saw the goalie wasn’t in the net yet, and the best opportunity as he was making his way between the pipes was to shoot it behind my back, and luckily it went in.”

He also liked what he saw from his young teammate, Naso.

“He comes out to practice and works hard every day,” Gray said. “Winning the faceoffs and getting us all those extra possessions was big. This is a huge confidence-booster for him.”

But Taylor said there’s still room to grow. As the Wildcats learned last season, even with a near-flawless record, complacency can set in.

Gavin Gregorek looks to fire at the cage. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“There are a lot of great teams out there that will be good competition,” he said. “We learned last year that we made it far, but we didn’t win it all. To win it all you have to continue to get better, so every day we have to come ready to work.”

Gray said the team’s two early-season losses — to East Islip and Eastport-South Manor in April — shaped the team. Now, they’re looking to gauge where they’re at with the games ahead.

“They helped us figure out what we were lacking,” Gray said. “We’re definitely getting better, and we have two big games coming up against Miller Place and Garden City that will really test our team.”

Shoreham-Wading River travels to Miller Place May 4 for a 4:30 p.m. matchup, and will host Garden City May 6 at 2 p.m.

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Kevin Cutinella leads Wildcats with four goals, receives championship plaque from parents

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.”

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