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Justin Eck

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Senior midfielder Justin Eck fires at the cage. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Middle Country countered Half Hollow Hills West’s four unanswered goals with four of their own to close within one in the second quarter of Division I boys’ lacrosse action Thursday afternoon, but the Mad Dogs couldn’t maintain the same level as the Colts and fell 15-9 in their second to last game of the season.

Trailing by two, Middle Country finally got on the scoreboard when junior Ryan Wheeler dished the ball to classmate and midfielder Michael Benasutti, who drove his shot home to cut the lead in half, to 2-1, at the 4:30 mark of the opening quarter.

The Colts countered by rattling off four unanswered goals in the next two minutes for a 6-1 advantage in the opening minute of the second quarter, but the Mad Dogs found a rhythm and scored four of their own, beginning with senior midfielder Kyle Stemke, to pull within one goal. Next to score was senior attack Ty Tracey, who connected for the score on a pass from senior attack David Garcia, the cutter, and Stemke struck again with a blast just outside the crease with six minutes left in the half to help his team close within two, 6-4.

Senior attack David Garcia gets checked. Photo by Bill Landon
Senior attack David Garcia gets checked. Photo by Bill Landon

“They’re a strong team — it just comes down to heart and that plays a major role in the game,” Stemke said.

Garcia’s stick spoke next when his shot stretched the net to shave the deficit to 6-5 at the 2:33 mark.

Garcia said knowing his teammates since childhood has helped the team developed a bond both on and off the field.

“We knew that they were a very good team, we worked hard and we’ve played our whole lives together,” Garcia said, adding that his team was able to come back because “we kept each other up and we stayed positive the whole way.”

The Mad Dogs came no closer though, as the Colts rattled the cage with five more goals in less than two minutes, to surge ahead 11-5 at the halftime break.

Middle Country opened the third quarter able to hold the Colts in check, and junior attack Matthew Gensinger’s drilled one past the goalie to stop the onslaught. Unlike the final minutes of the second quarter, the Middle Country defense was able to hold its opponent, limiting the Colts to just two goals in the third, but the Mad Dogs failed to score again until the final quarter.

With less than five minutes left in the game, junior midfielder Jessie McKeever fed senior midfielder Justin Eck on a cut, and he drilled his shot just inside the pipes to trail 13-7.

Middle Country kept pace the rest of the way, with junior Nicholas Belmonte and sophomore Daniel Hogan countering two Half Hollow Hills goals, but the team’s efforts were not enough to catch the Colts.

Middle Country head coach Christopher Siragusa said he thought his team would have been able to keep up with its opponent if it weren’t for the last two minutes of the second quarter.

Senior midfielder Kyle Stemke sprints to the crease. Photo by Bill Landon
Senior midfielder Kyle Stemke sprints to the crease. Photo by Bill Landon

“I thought that we could handle them,” he said. “It depended on what team we had on the field — we’re a strong character team, we fought with every team we faced this season, even the top dogs. We thought we had a good shot at it.”

Senior goalkeeper Christian Brody said he wasn’t surprised by Half Hollow Hills West, and knew he would have a busy day between the pipes.

“They’re what we expected — they’re heavy shooters and they swing the ball very well,” said Brody, who finished with 11 saves. “But it’s all about how our defense sets up, and we had great stops on defense. They did a good job.”

Stemke said he’s felt honored to play on the same field as his goalkeeper, who has worked hard to keep the team in games this season.

“Our goalie played great,” he said. “He’s having a great year and I can’t thank him enough for getting in that cage every game.”

With the loss, Middle Country drops to 4-9, and will finish out the season hosting Lindenhurst on Thursday at 7 p.m.

 

This version corrects the Half Hollow Hills West mascot.

Centereach senior Kevin Callahan drives the baseline around Ward Melville junior Dominic Pryor. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville junior Dominic Pryor reaches for the ball on a rebound. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville junior Dominic Pryor reaches for the ball on a rebound. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Centereach achieved something this season that hasn’t happened since 2010: they made it to the postseason. Not only did the boys’ basketball team make the playoffs, the No. 14 seed hosted No. 19 Ward Melville on its own home court. The Cougars were able to close within eight points midway through the final quarter, but that was the closest they would get, as the Patriots floored it in the final minutes to put the game away, 59-41.

Ward Melville stretched its legs early, and edged ahead 12-4 after eight minutes of play. The Patriots’ defense was swarming, blocking several shots.

While the Cougars struggled offensively, the Patriots found their 3-point range during the second quarter, with senior Mathew O’Hea netting one, and teammate Mathew Hudzik, a junior, swishing his second trey of the game, to put the team out front 22-13 at the halftime break.

Ward Melville opened the second half much like it did the first, with 3-pointers from O’Hea and Hudzik. Centereach countered when Kevin Callahan fouled from 3-point land. Despite thunderous calls from the visiting crowd, the senior swished all three attempts.

Centereach junior Jon Agostino drives the lane as he makes his way to the rim. Photo by Bill Landon
Centereach junior Jon Agostino drives the lane as he makes his way to the rim. Photo by Bill Landon

“We haven’t made it in a while — it’s a different mindset and it’s a big deal,” Callahan said. “It’s a big crowd and lot of people come out, so it’s a lot of pressure.”

Centereach senior Justin Eck also nailed a 3-point field goal, to make it a 10-point game with two minutes left in the third.

“We focused on this round just like we did with the in-season games,” Eck said. “We needed to focus on our game plan. … We focused on execution — we tried to stay loose and play our game.”

Centereach junior Jon Agostino hit his second 3-pointer to make it a nine point game, and both teams traded points before the Cougars, on a defensive steal, converted the opportunity to draw within eight points with 4:03 left in regulation.

“Tonight we fed off of our defensive energy,” Ward Melville head coach Alexander Piccirillo said. “We thrived on stops, or holding someone to just one shot or forcing a bad shot, and that translates to the offensive side of the ball.”

Hudzik executed his fifth trifecta of the evening to re-extend the Patriots’ lead, and with time running out, Centereach was forced to arrest the clock. The Cougars sent Hudzik to the line after a foul, and the junior went 6-for-6 from the charity stripe to put the game out of reach.

Centereach senior Justin Eck scores a layup while Ward Melville junior Mathew Hudzik reaches for the block. Photo by Bill Landon
Centereach senior Justin Eck scores a layup while Ward Melville junior Mathew Hudzik reaches for the block. Photo by Bill Landon

“We looked at the film from our loss to Commack [10 days ago] and we learned from that,” said Hudzik, who scored 21 points on the evening. “We did our best to do everything right that we did wrong in that game.”

According to Centereach head coach Ed Miller, having endured a long playoff drought, this season was a testament to the commitment of his Cougars senior leadership.

“They came out and shot the ball well, and you can’t take anything away from them,” he said of Ward Melville. “They made it very difficult to play against them. Alex does a great job over there and they’re in the right spots.”

Miller added that he was proud of his team, and admired their sense of urgency and the contribution each of them made this season.

“They’ve set the stage they laid the groundwork to get our program back to where we want to be,” he said. “I know the effort that they put into the off season, so it was my seniors that I was most impressed with.”

Ward Melville junior Noah Kepes said his team’s preparation for this game was the same as it was for the regular season, and will be for the rest of the postseason.

Ward Melville junior Mathew Hudzik scores one of his five 3-pointers. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville junior Mathew Hudzik scores one of his five 3-pointers. Photo by Bill Landon

“We tried to not get all in our heads, because it’s a playoff game,” he said. “We’ve been working on defensive slides every day in practice. Just the same thing we’ve been doing — it’s like any other game.”

The Patriots hit the road tomorrow, Feb. 13, to take on No. 3-seeeded Half Hollow Hills West, with tipoff scheduled for noon.

“We’ll get a film from somebody in their league, we’ll get a scouting report, we’ll get a good practice in tomorrow and then we’re going to get on the bus and go over there,” Piccirillo said. “We’re going to defend like crazy; we’re going to be ready for them, and I hope they’re ready for us.”

By Joe Galotti

On Saturday afternoon, the Smithtown West football team found the end zone a half dozen times before halftime, and put an exclamation mark on the school’s homecoming weekend festivities with a 48-28 victory over Centereach. The Bulls improved to 3-0 on the season, and were able to celebrate Smithtown’s 350th anniversary in style.

“This was just another step in the right direction,” Smithtown West head coach Pete Cerullo said. “The offense and defense executed the way they were supposed to. It was a great win, and I’m proud of our team.”

Senior quarterback Daniel Caroussos led the Bulls’ offensive assault in the game, doing plenty of damage with both his arm and his legs. The senior threw for a touchdowns and 163 yards, and ran for 74 yards and three touchdowns.

“This week of practice we prepared well,” Caroussos said. “The scout team gave us a great look. We knew what they were going to come out with.”

Centereach senior quarterback Nick Juvelier also put together a memorable day. He completed 24 of 40 passes, and threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns.

“I got to give credit to my receivers, really,” Juvelier said. “I just got a lot of playmakers around me.”

Centereach senior wide receivers Justin Eck and Mark Pirollo, and junior wide receiver Rob Montgomery all finished with touchdown receptions for Cougars on the day. Even though the team found success through the air, it was Smithtown West that was in control, from nearly start to finish.

Junior running back James Caddigan Jr. opened the scoring for the Bulls with a 7-yard touchdown run just 3:53 into the game. With 1:40 remaining in the opening quarter, Caddigan Jr. struck again, this time, with a 12-yard rushing touchdown.

Before the end of the first, Caroussos broke the game open for Smithtown West with a 25-yard rushing touchdown on a keeper play, which gave the Bulls a 21-0 advantage.

In the second quarter, Caroussos threw and ran for a touchdown. Smithtown West also scored on an interception by senior linebacker Daniel Varello, which he returned 25 yards to the end zone. The Bulls took a healthy 34-point lead into halftime.

The Cougars did manage to show signs of life in the second half, outscoring their opponent 21-7 in the game’s final 24 minutes. Despite the final score, Centereach head coach Adam Barrett still has of faith in his team moving forward.

“We were 2-0 before we came into this game, and we know what it takes to win,” Barrett said. “Now we got to get back on track.”

The Cougars will look for a bounce-back performance, when they host Half Hollows Hill East this Saturday at 2 p.m. Meanwhile, red-hot Smithtown West will be back at Robert W. Pratt Field this Friday night, when they welcome No. 2-seeded Riverhead. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m., and Caroussos said his team will be ready for the challenge.

“This game was a huge confidence booster for us, especially going into next week,” he said. “That’s going to be a great competition for us. We’re expecting that to be a great game.”