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Kings Park

Rows of cheering friends and family lined Longfellow Drive in Kings Park Wednesday afternoon to welcome home a National Guard airman returning home from Iraq. Nobody was more excited to see him than his children.

Both Ella, 3, and Gavin Brucculeri, 2, screamed with delight when they saw their father, Master Sgt. Jimmy Brucculeri, pull up in the family’s Dodge Ram. Ella bounded over to her dad who immediately picked her up into his arms. Gavin walked down the driveway with tears in his eyes, completely overcome with emotion.

Suffolk County  police department members looking on cheered loudly in welcoming Brucculeri home. It was a surprise.

“It’s a great feeling, all of this, it’s a great feeling to be home.”

— Jimmy Brucculeri

“It’s a great feeling, all of this, it’s a great feeling to be home,” he said. ‘It’s good to see everybody come together.”

Brucculeri works as a Suffolk County police officer in addition to serving as a member of the 106th Air Rescue Wing of New York’s National Guard. In January, his unit was deployed into Iraq to assist Operation Inherent Resolve, a U.S led mission to combat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The 106th Air Rescue Unit lost four of its members March 15 when a H-60 Pave Helicopter crashed in Iraq during a mission for Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. Department of Defense has said the cause of the crash is still under investigation, but it but did not appear to be the result of enemy activity.

“It’s kind of somber, but half of my unit is still in Iraq,” Brucculeri said. “So until they get home and everyone gets home, it’s just waiting.”

Thousands of mourners traveled to King’s Park to attend funeral services for Commack airman Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso, a member of Brucculeri’s unit, who was killed in the line of duty when the helicopter crashed.

“Gavin’s birthday was yesterday, so it’s a very good birthday present to have him home.”

— Cathyrn Brucculeri

Brucculeri’s family was able to keep in contact with him while he was overseas, but said it was much better to have him home.

“We spoke daily over Facetime or texting, which was good, but it was still obviously hard,” said Cathryn, Brucculeri’s wife. “ The kids definitely felt it. Gavin’s birthday was yesterday, so it’s a very good birthday present to have him home.”

Ernie Kabelka was also there to welcome Brucculeri home.

“He’s a great neighbor, he’s a great friend. He does everything around here,” Kabelka said.

He recalled how during a major snowstorm he and Brucculeri were driving around town together, when they spotted a man whose car was stuck in the snow. Brucculeri pulled over and spent more than a half hour helping dig the man out, according to Kabelka.

“He didn’t think nothing of it, it’s just what he does,” the neighbor said.

Concetta Van Winckel, a friend of the family, helped to organize the homecoming posting messages on Facebook and social media.

“Everyone from the community really came out for this,” Van Winckel said. “It was beautiful. People were really great to come out, even in the rain.”

Pallets filled with donated water and soda at Kings Park Fire Department. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Sara-Megan Walsh

One sign of late Commack resident Christopher Raguso’s lasting impact on his community may be his ability to inspire hundreds of Kings Park residents and businesses to donate.

It’s what happens when one of our community is down, our community helps pick them up.”
— Tony Tanzi

Kings Park residents and area businesses donated supplies to help the Fire Department of the City of New York host funeral services for the U.S. airman and New York City and Commack firefighter March 31.

The FDNY reached out to the Kings Park Fire Department while planning for Raguso’s service, according to Kings Park Fire Chief John Gallo, requesting assistance to provide for the anticipated attendance between 3,000 and 15,000 mourners. It sought donations of bottled water, soda, food and paper goods to help feed the volunteer fighters and military personnel who would be attending the ceremony.

“As soon as we heard the terrible news, we were there to support them in whatever Commack or the Raguso family needed,” Gallo said.

 Kings Park Fire Department has provided this list of area businesses and organizations who donated or contributed to the funeral services held March 31:

Albrecht Viggiano Zureck & Company, P.C.
Ancient Order of Hibernians
Andersen’s Deli & Catering
Andrews Excavating Inc.
Bagel King
Baldor
Boy Scout Troop 410
Ciro’s Italian Restaurants & Catering
Cookies & More
Costco
Duke’s K9 Spa
Edelweiss Delicatessen & Caterers
Emilio’s Italian Kitchen
EMF Gourmet Italian Market
The Fresh Market
G Weld Fabrication & Welding Inc.
Home Depot
Key Food
Kings Park Chiropractic
Kings Park Fire Department
Kings Park Hardware
Kings Park Moms
Knights of Columbus
KP Construction
La Scala Ristorante
Long Island Cares
Liberty Mutual
Manhattan Beer
Milano Fine Men’s Fashion
New Beginnings
NY Auto Giant
Plycon Transportation Group
Pizzaiolo Gourmet Eatery
Prime Wine & Liquor
Relish
111 Deli Catering
Rothco
Sangria 71
Sterling National Bank
St. Catherine’s of Siena Medical Center
St. Johnland Nursing Center
Superior Ice Rink
Uncle Wallys Bake Shoppe
Verizon 

The request hit close to home for Kings Park firefighters. Raguso’s brother-in-law, Andrew DiChiara, is a volunteer with the fire department.

Gallo said he immediately reached out to neighboring fire departments in East Northport, Hauppauge, Nesconset, Nissequogue, Northport and St. James for help. As the estimates of those attending Raguso’s funeral increased, the fire chief said he called Tony Tanzi, president of Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, to see if local businesses would be willing to contribute. An email blast sent out to the chamber’s membership quickly went viral. Kings Park Moms group and the nonprofit organization Angels Without Faces reposted the message on their Facebook pages.

“The people in this community took it and ran with it,” Tanzi said. “That’s indicative of Kings Park as a whole. It’s what happens when one of our community is down, our community helps pick them up.”

Long before Kings Park firefighters had posted they would be accepting public donations at 7 p.m. March 30, their storage warehouse was already filled with pallets of bottled water. A steady stream of residents pulled up in minivans and SUVs to donate cases of soda, potato chips and Girl Scout cookies saying simply “for Raguso.” Tanzi said about 50 pallets of water and more than 60,000 disposable drinking cups were collected.

The sheer volume of supplies began to raise logistical issues of how to best move them to the funeral site. Kings Park Hardware sent over a forklift to help lift and maneuver pallets, according to Tanzi, while Plycon Transportation offered free use of their trucks to drop off the goods around town.

The fire department’s Main Street headquarters and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5796 hall on Church Street both opened their doors as rest stops during Raguso’s funeral. The FDNY also set up garbage pails filled with water bottles on ice for mourners along the funeral procession route.

“On behalf of the Kings Park Fire Department, I would personally like to extend my appreciation to all the residents of our community for their extremely generous and outstanding show of support,” said John Gallo, chief of the Kings Park Fire Department. “The Raguso family, Commack Fire Department and FDNY are all thankful to all of you who assisted in supporting Chris’ funeral. It is this outpouring of support that makes our community special and Kings Park a beautiful place to live. God bless America and God bless our military.”

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The Kings Park community is pulling together to host a fundraiser to support one of their own who was diagnosed with cancer in December.

R.J.O. Intermediate school student Frank Loeffler III, 11, is fighting a battle with embryonal habdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that most commonly occurs in children. It only accounts for 3 percent of pediatric cancers, with about 350 new cases diagnosed each year in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society.

Frank Loeffler Jr., young Frank’s father, remembers the exhausting and heartbreaking lead up to learning that his son had cancer.

Frank Loeffler III. Photo from YOU CARING

“It was just an ear infection, a virus we were thinking.” Loeffler said. “It was a shocker.”

His son had a pain in his ear, but it quickly became a numbness that went all the way down to his chin.

“We were blindsided, that’s the best word,” said Nicole Schweitzer, Frank’s cousin and the fundraiser’s organizer. “You don’t think an ear infection is going to turn into that.”

The middle schooler is currently undergoing a six-week treatment at ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Somerset, New Jersey, where he is in the process of receiving proton radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

“He’s hanging in there. He’s strong and brave, the kid’s my hero,” his father said.

The Loeffler family, friends and community members were quick to help lend their support. Chris Stillwell, Frank’s pack leader for Boy Scout Troop 539, helped to organize weekly meals for family members who spent so much time on the road visiting hospitals.

“The boys felt his absence right away, but the outpouring from the pack was overwhelming,” Stillwell said. “The boys, the moms and the dads wanted to do something, so [they]  set up a food train and delivered food to them once a week.”

Frank has continued to participate in the Boy Scout troop’s activities, even placing in the top four out of 50 contestants in the Pinewood Derby last month.

“We were blindsided, that’s the best word. You don’t think an ear infection is going to turn into that.”

— Nicole  Schweitzer

Loeffler said his son is doing well so far, and that the radiation has reduced the tumor by nearly half.

“He’s strong,” he said.

The Loeffler family hopes to raise $50,000 through donations. The money will go toward paying for Frank’s medical treatments and a portion of the money will also go toward Ronald McDonald House Charities and The Pediatric Cancer Foundation.

“When a child has cancer, the first thing people want to do is help, they want to help right away. ‘How can we get involved, can we do this or we do that,’ it blew up really quickly,” Schweitzer said. “Everybody knows my family so we’ve had a tremendous amount of support so far, and I’m mind-blown as to how many people have committed to coming to the fundraiser.”

Schweitzer said they have been advertising for about a month and more than 200 people have committed to come to the fundraiser so far.

They also contacted Joe Mango, the president of Kings Park nonprofit organization Angels Without Faces whose mission is to provide financial assistance to families and individuals going through hardship, to help promote the event. He said he expects the event to do well.

“This town is just a phenomenal fundraising town,” Mango said. “I’ve seen three fundraisers all go off in the same weekend and they’ve all been successful.”

The fundraiser will take place at Shanahan’s Bar and Grill at 515 Old Dock Road in Kings Park on Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. There is a $30 cash donation at the door. The family has also set up a page on www.YouCaring.com for people to donate. Those who wish to donate can search “Frank Loeffler” on YouCaring or go to www.angelswithoutfaces.com.

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Thousands of mourners, firefighters, family and friends lined the streets of Kings Park Saturday morning to say their farewells and pay final respects to U.S. airman Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso, also a New York City and Commack firefighter.

“A hero is a person who is admired for their courage, for their outstanding achievements, for their noble qualities,” said Daniel Nigro, commissioner of the Fire Department of the City of New York. “Lieutenant Christopher Raguso was a hero in every sense of the word, and the way he lived his life.”

“Lieutenant Christopher Raguso was a hero in every sense of the word, and the way he lived his life.”
— Daniel Nigro

Firefighters standing up to five and six-men deep lined Raguso’s funeral processional route from Clayton’s Funeral Home to St. Joseph’s Church in Kings Park. The church and parish hall were both filled to capacity as the funeral service for Raguso got underway March 31. Thousands more stood outside watching a jumbotron simulcast of the service from the streets and nearby houses.

Raguso was one of seven members of New York’s 106th rescue unit killed in the line-of-duty March 15 when a H-60 Pave Hawk helicopter crashed while carrying out a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, an American-led mission to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria, according to the United States Department of Defense. The DOD said the cause of the crash is under investigation, but did not appear to be the result of enemy activity.

“When men like Chris pass, we are forced to reflect on our own worthiness,” said Lieutenant Christopher Gorzynski of the FDNY. “Deep down, we know we will never measure up to the bar that he has set. Chris just gave us so much more than we gave him.”

Raguso had served deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan, East Africa and more recently, two answered domestic calls to action to help victims of hurricanes Harvey and Maria. In January 2018, he started his second tour in Iraq.

“He had promised everyone this would be his last time going to war — how prophetic,” said his father, John Raguso.

“Celebrities show off, heroes show up. Chris always showed up.
— Rev. Sean Gann

The father recalled his son’s passion and devotion to serving others in a 12-minute eulogy he referred to as “the most difficult task of my life.” Raguso said his son’s caring nature was evident early in life, when at age 4 on a family trip to the Dominican Republican he took off the shirt and shorts he was wearing to give to a local boy.

“We knew early on that Chris was on a flight path all his own,” his father said.

Raguso joined the Commack Fire Department in 2000. He served as captain of Company 2 before stepping up as lieutenant of Company 4, located off Kings Park Road. Raguso was posthumously bestowed the rank of honorary fire chief based on a unanimous vote of the Commack Fire Department’s membership March 16.

“Celebrities show off, heroes show up,” said Rev. Sean Gann of St. Joseph’s Church. “Chris always showed up.”

Raguso was also a 13-year veteran of the FDNY, where he served the majority of his career with Ladder Company 113 in Brooklyn. He rose to the rank of lieutenant and was stationed with Battalion 50 in Queens at the time of his death. On six different occasions, he was cited for bravery and life-saving actions either for his individual actions or as part of a unit.

“That’s because Chris didn’t know how not to give 100 percent of himself,” Gorzynski said.

“Chris’s legacy is hallmarked by a life of service so that others may live.”
— Lee Zeldin

His fellow firefighter recalled him as a “gentle giant” who was known not only for his heroic acts but loving messages, bestowing nicknames and “goofball antics we can only tell now in stories and laughter,” according to Gorzynski.

“Chris’s legacy is hallmarked by a life of service so that others may live,” said U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in his eulogy.

Zeldin, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and his wife, Chirlane McCray, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) were among the host of federal, state and town elected officials who attended the ceremony but did not publicly speak.

At the end of the funeral service, four Nassau County helicopters performed a flyover in honor of Raguso which was followed by a moment of silence. Bagpipers played “America the Beautiful” as the procession headed to Calverton National Cemetery in Wading River to his interment with full military honors.

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Wake services to be held March 29 and 30 at Commack Fire Department

A U.S. Air Force carry team transfers the remains of Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso, of Commack, March 18 at Dover Air Force Base. Photo from U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Matt Davis

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Suffolk County police and Smithtown Town officials have announced several road closures in advance of the funeral services for Air National Guard Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso.

Police will close one lane of Jericho Turnpike between Valmont Avenue and Commack Road in Commack on March 29 and 30 between noon and approximately 10 p.m.

Indian Head Road will be closed between Kings Park Road and Old Dock Road March 31 from 8 a.m. to approximately 3 p.m. Church Street, portions of Old Dock Road and portions of Route 25A will also be closed.

Smithtown Town officials announced there will be road closures in Kings Park along the ceremony route. It will start at Clayton Funeral Home on Meadow Road south to Old Northport Road March 31, starting as early as 9 a.m. The funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m. at Clayton Funeral Home, located at 25 Meadow Road in Kings Park.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) has asked all residents to plan accordingly and to please have patience out of respect for the Raguso family and friends. Heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffic is expected and motorists are advised to find alternate routes.

In lieu of flowers, donations are being collected online to benefit Raguso’s daughters via the FDNY Foundation.  All who wish to contribute can do so by visiting: www.fdnyfoundation.org/donate. Visitors can scroll down to the “Fund” column and click on the “Scholarship Fund to Benefit the Children of FDNY Lieutenant Christopher Raguso” from the drop-down menu.

This post will be updated with additional road closures as more information becomes available. 

Police said driver allegedly had 26 suspensions on his license at time of accident

File photo.

Suffolk County police arrested a Wyandanch man who was driving with 26 suspensions on his license after he allegedly left the scene of a Kings Park accident.

Rigoberto Campos. Photo from SCPD.

Rigoberto Campos was driving a 2010 Nissan Altima southbound on Indian Head Road, near Old Northport Road, in Kings Park at approximately 6:15 p.m. March 18 when his vehicle allegedly struck a 2006 Lexus driven by Audrey Montante, 77, of Kings Park. Campos continued driving for approximately one-quarter of a mile before he stopped his vehicle and fled the scene on foot. Police officers from the 4th Precinct apprehended and arrested Campos in a nearby wooded area at approximately 6:45 p.m.

Campos, a male passenger in the Altima and a male passenger in the Lexus were transported by Kings Park Fire Department ambulance to St. Catherine of Sienna Medical Center in Smithtown with non-life-threatening injuries. Montante were not injured.

Campos, 30, was arrested and charged with first-degree aggravated unlicensed operation and leaving the scene of an accident with injury.  He was held overnight at the 4th Precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip March 19.

Kings Park held annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade March 3  led by Grand Marshal Father Sean Gann, the pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Kings Park.

Despite the threat of rain and chilling winds,  Kings Parks residents lined the streets to celebrate the area’s Irish heritage — whether they were Irish or merely Irish for the day.

There parade featured bagpipe bands, floats, marching groups and a special tribute to Gann as it’s marshal.  Gann’s mother, Mary, immigrated to the United States from St. Mullins, County Carlow, in Ireland at age 12 to live with her aunt in Kings Park, according to the parade’s website.

Gann has served as a chaplain to the Suffolk County Police Officer’s Emerald
Society, whose pipe band marches first in the Kings Park parade each year.

The parade was started in 2011 by Kevin “The Professor” Denis, owner of Professor’s Diner in Kings Park as a way to celebrate the area’s Irish cultural roots.

 

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Downtown Kings Park. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

There’s renewed hope among Smithtown town officials that they might be able to pave a parking lot to bring Kings Park downstreet one step closer to paradise — or at least revitalization.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) asked his town council members to consider moving forward with getting a real estate appraisal of two vacant lots off Pulaski Road in Kings Park for future use as municipal parking at the Feb. 20 work session. The issue will go before the town board Feb. 22, at 7p.m. for approval.

“[The town attorney] believes that things may have changed,” Wehrheim said. “This might be a good opportunity to look at it.”

The two adjacent wooded lots measure approximately 12,800 square feet, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo, and are located south of Park Bake Shop off the intersection of Pulaski Road and Main Street.

This is the second appraisal the town will solicit of the properties owned by Matthew Lupoli, as Smithtown officials previously considered purchasing the land in 2013-14.

A petition started by Park Bake Shop owners, Lucy and Gabe Shtanko, in 2013 received more than 600 signatures from Kings Park residents asking town officials to purchase the lot for municipal parking. Wehrheim said a 2014 appraisal determined its fair market price at $230,000, but Lupoli wasn’t interested in selling at that time.

There is a Smithtown Town municipal parking lot across the street from the Kings Park Fire Department on Main Street, next to the Kings Park branch of the public library. But truth be told, Kings Park could possibly use a little more.

The western portion of Main Street — dubbed “Restaurant Row” — is the one area that could possibly use more municipal parking, according to the results of a 2018 market analysis study of downtown Kings Park presented by Larisa Ortiz, urban planner and principal of Larisa Ortiz Associates, to Smithtown Town Board Jan. 25.

“The municipal lots are inconvenient for restaurants,” reads the 62-page report.

The Restaurant Row area, which includes several eateries such as Cafe Red and Relish, averages 4.7 parking spots per 1,000 square-feet of retail space. This is less than the two other areas of Main Street, known as the “civic heart,” near the Kings Park library and Long Island Rail Road station; and “car-centric retail,” which is centered around Tanzi Plaza and the Kings Park Plaza shopping center.

Ortiz’s other suggestions for improving the current parking situation in the downtown area include restriping several existing lots — such as Relish’s — to accommodate more spaces and increase their efficiency.

“When we all ran, we promised to help the downtown,” said Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R). “We need to work on it.”

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File photo

Suffolk County police yesterday arrested a Kings Park man for allegedly impersonating a police officer in a Ronkonkoma hotel parking lot.

Two plain clothes officers saw a man sitting in a silver 2014 Hyundai Tucson in the rear parking lot of the Clarion Hotel, located on Veterans Memorial Highway.  Officers noticed smoke and approached the vehicle to investigate. Police said they allegedly smelled marijuana and noticed the man was wearing a police badge.  They interviewed the man, who allegedly admitted the badge was fake. The officers also claim to have found an expandable baton and a fake police chief placard in the vehicle in plain view.

Justin Conte, 43, of Kings Park, was arrested Feb. 15 and brought to the precinct. Police said they discovered he had a valid pistol permit with three weapons. Officers went to safeguard the weapons at his house, where they allegedly found three illegal guns including two AR-15 rifles and a 38-caliber revolver. Numerous other types of police equipment were also found, according to police.

Conte was charged with one felony count of first-degree criminal impersonation, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana, criminal possession of a firearm, and two felony counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon following the investigation by the 5th squad.

Conte will be held overnight at the 5th Precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 16 at First District Court in Central Islip.

The investigation is continuing. Anyone who has additional information is asked to contact the Fifth Squad at 631-854-8552.

Rocky Point's wrestling team took the Section XI tournament title for the second straight season. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

Rocky Point’s Anthony Sciotto used his laser focus to come out with a 6-2 decision at 120 pounds in the county finals.

“I stay calm and collected during my matches,” said Sciotto, who picked up his 52nd win of the season and 189th of his career. “When I get stressed out and overthink my matches, that’s when I don’t do as well. I really go out there and do my thing.”

Rocky Point’s Anthony Sciotto and Corey Connolly with their tournament hardware. Photo by Jim Ferchland

The senior’s victory over Eastport-South Manor’s Zach Redding propelled Rocky Point to the top of Division I at the Suffolk County wrestling finals at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus Feb. 11. The Eagles, which finished with 137.5 points, took home their second straight team title.

Sciotto will be heading to the Naval Academy after he graduates.

“It’s been a dream since I was a little kid,” Sciotto said about joining the Navy. “I’ve always wanted to serve my country.”

Five matches later, junior Corey Connolly faced off against Half Hollow Hills West’s Anthony Dushaj and pinned him in the final seconds of the third period (5:48) for his 49th of the season and 153rd of his career.

“This was my best season most definitely,” Connolly said. “The journey has been amazing. I train with Anthony Volpe [an assistant coach and former Rocky Point 160-pound star] every day and he just pushes me where I go to be.”

Rocky Point head coach Darren Goldstein said it was a tough competition, but he wasn’t surprised that Sciotto and Connolly were at the top of the podium.

“Suffolk County is always a grind,” Goldstein said. “We were blessed in 2009 and 2010 to have three win it and then go on to win states. Anthony Sciotto, he’s been at this a long time with his second straight county title. Corey Connolly didn’t place in this tournament ever and had a huge chip on his shoulder. He’s really worked hard with our coaches. They had a game plan, they stuck to the game plan, and when you do that good things happen.”

“Anthony Sciotto, he’s been at this a long time with his second straight county title. Corey Connolly didn’t place in this tournament ever and had a huge chip on his shoulder.”

—Darren Goldstein

Volpe was one of those Eagles to travel upstate in 2010, and won. The five-time league champion is one of only three Rocky Point wrestlers to eclipse 200 wins.

Hauppauge sophomore Danny Mauriello hit one of the biggest moves of the tournament when he reversed Patchogue-Medford junior Ryan Burgbacher with five seconds remaining for the 5-4 win and the 145-pound title.

Sophomore Thomas DiResta of Kings Park reeled off five straight wins from an unseeded position, including a 3-0 upset of top-seeded Luke Smith of Hauppauge to capture the 99-pound title. The two battled through two scoreless periods before DiResta scored a third period escape for a 1-0 lead with 1:35 left in the match. Smith went for a dump and DiResta countered the move and scored his own takedown with 15 seconds remaining.

“We thought we could slow down Smith’s offense by being aggressive and keeping him in check,” said Kings Park coach Clark Crespi. “We felt we could close the gap with Smith and if Thomas executed our plan we felt he could be successful.”

It was redemption for DiResta, who was beaten by Smith, 8-0, during league action, and 11-2 in the League V finals.

Sciotto and Connolly will travel to Albany for the state championship Feb. 23 and 24 at Times Union Center.

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