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Suffolk County Finals

Jack Deliberti rips one over the top of Ward Melville goalkeeper Davon DiFede. Photo by Steven Zaitz

By Steven Zaitz

It was a rivalry that has become a domination.

And the latest chapter was delivered with quite the punctuation.

The Northport boys lacrosse program thrashed Ward Melville on Saturday, May 18, by a score of 14-3 in the Suffolk County Class A semifinal match at Northport. It is the eighth straight time the Tigers have beaten the Patriots, three of the eight knocking Ward Melville out of the playoffs.

Northport goalkeeper Quinn Napolitano made an astounding 20 saves in the contest that sent the second-seeded Tiger team, led by Northport alum Billy Cordts, to face top-seed Half Hollow Hills. Northport beat Hills 7-3 on May 8 but the Section XI power ranking computer put Hills, who beat Huntington in their semifinal, atop the playoff bracket.

Northport attacker Jack Deliberti netted a nickel-full of goals, all five coming in the second half to lead the onslaught for hosting Northport. Fellow attacker Luke Loiacono scored three in the first half to ignite the Tiger attack, the second of which gave the Tigers the lead for good and it came with exactly one second remaining in the first quarter. 

Midfielders Quinn Reynolds and Logan Cash had a pair each and crafty veteran Tim McLam scored from the seat of his pants at the end of the first half to give the Tigers a 6-2 lead. It would balloon to 11-2 when Deliberti and Reynolds alternated goals in an eight-minute span to bridge the third and fourth quarters. The rout was on.

Deliberti added a triple dollop of dessert with three more to finish off the luckless Patriots. 

Meanwhile, Napolitano was busy fending off shots until the very end, as Ward Melville played hard until the final whistle – some might say a little too hard.

As frustration set in, slashing and cross-checking penalties were assessed late in the game to Thomas Murphy and Zach Brittman of Ward Melville as yellow flags flew frequently in the fourth quarter. Giancarlo Valenti and Derek Vassallo were also given unsportsmanlike penalties for the Tigers.

Northport (15-2) will be playing in its fourth straight Suffolk County final when they play Hills at neutral site Longwood on Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m. They have won the previous three with two Long Island championships since 2021, but fell to Farmingdale last year.

Ward Melville, who got two goals from Aidan Kilduff and one from Callan McLaughlin, finishes at 13-4. Davon DiFede made nine saves for the Patriots.

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Port Jefferson streamed onto the court after the final buzzer Feb. 13 as now they make their way to the Suffolk B Finals against Mattituck Feb. 21. Photo by Courtney Biondo

It was a whiteout on the basketball court Feb. 13 at home, as the Lady Royals defeated Babylon 55-37 for a playoff win.

The home crowd, all dressed in white to support the No. 1 seed Lady Royals, streamed onto the court after the final buzzer, cheering the team’s chance at the Suffolk B Finals game.

Junior Evelyn Walker had six points and 11 rebounds, along with a 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter.

Leading in scoring was sophomore Abigail Rolfe with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while junior Brooke Zamek was no slouch at 17 points.

Port Jefferson is set to retake the court against Mattituck in the Suffolk B Finals game Friday, Feb. 21 at Centereach High School. Game time is set for 6 p.m. The admission fee is $8 when purchased online at https://gofan.co/app/school/NYSPHSAAXI. Otherwise the fee is $10, cash only, at the door.

By Bill Landon & Desirée Keegan

Everything Brian Willetts has worked for led up to that moment.

With 1:53 left in double overtime in front of 3,000 fans at Wednesday evening’s Suffolk County Class A championship game, Smithtown East’s Willetts bounced in the game-winning goal to seal the deal for the Bulls for their second straight county title, with an 11-10 win over Ward Melville.

“When I’m training and working hard, I’m thinking about that final shot in the county championship,” the senior attack and co-captain said. “Once it went into overtime I’m immediately thinking ‘wow, this is my time,’ and I felt, as a leader, I had to take from ‘X’ and go get it.”

Willetts racked up a hat trick on the Stony Brook University field, while junior attack Dan Rooney added three goals and an assist to lead Smithtown East.

Both teams lit up the scoreboard consistently in the first quarter, with the action starting right from the opening faceoff.

The game was tied 1-1 after the first minute of play, with Willetts flicking one in and Ward Melville senior attack Billy McGinley responding with a goal of his own off an assist from senior attack Dan Bucaro.

Smithtown East dominated the faceoff ‘X,’ and senior faceoff specialist Gerard Arceri took the ball from midfield and headed straight to the cage, scoring unassisted to give his team a 2-1 advantage.

Smithtown East’s John Daniggelis, a midfielder and co-captain, found the net next off an assist from sophomore midfielder Bobby Burns, to give his team a 3-1 lead in a game that was still less than two minutes old.

Ward Melville senior midfielder Jake McCulloch’s shot found its mark to help his team pull within one, but Smithtown East quickly responded when sophomore attack Sean Barry found the back of the cage off an assist by junior attack Dan Rooney.

“I was thinking one faceoff was going to win the game, so it was a battle at the ‘X’ there at the end.” —Gerard Arceri, Smithtown East

Ward Melville’s Bucaro scored next, and Barry and Rooney connected for another Smithtown East goal, with Rooney scoring this time, and Willetts fired a shot off a pass from sophomore midfielder Bobby Burns, as the Bulls edged ahead, 6-3.

“I have to give a lot of credit to my defense,” Willetts said. “They made stop after stop against McCulloch and Bucaro, two of the best players in the county, so our defense was just unbelievable.”

Despite all the stops, McCulloch found a way to get to goal, and stretched the net twice more for a hat trick, to again pull his Patriots within one, 6-5, with 9:26 left in the second quarter.

Goals by Smithtown East’s Burns and fellow sophomore midfielder Connor Desimone gave the Bulls an 8-5 advantage with 6:58 left in the half.

Ward Melville junior midfielder John Burgdoerfer put a point on the scoreboard off a feed from McCulloch, to trim the deficit, but Rooney found the net for a second time to bring the score to 9-6 heading into the halftime break.

The Patriots opened the second half by rattling off three unanswered goals with two coming from Bucaro, and the third from senior midfielder James Kickel off an assist by McCulloch, to tie the game 9-9.

Daniggelis dished one off to Rooney, whose hat trick goal helped the Bulls pull out a 10-9 lead to begin the fourth quarter, and McCulloch scored the lone goal of the final 12 minutes, four minutes into the final quarter, to retie the score, 10-10, which held up until the end of regulation.

The game went into a four-minute overtime sudden-death period, but it yielded no goals.

“I lost the first [faceoff] in the first overtime period,” Arceri said. “I was thinking one faceoff was going to win the game, so it was a battle at the ‘X’ there at the end.”

Smithtown East senior goalkeeper Sean Turner stood strong between the pipes during the first overtime, even through a broken helmet switch, and made save after save — each punctuated by a gasp from the stadium crowd — to keep the Patriot high-octane offense at bay.

“Turner was unbelievable, especially in the fourth quarter,” Smithtown East head coach Jason Lambert said. “We weren’t scoring a lot after the third quarter, so he kept stepping up, making save after save and standing tall in the net. I can’t say enough good things about him, because that game could’ve gone either way.”

“It was a surreal feeling to be able to get that shot off for the game-winning goal for a team that I love so much.” —Brian Willetts, Smithtown East

At the 1:53 mark in the second overtime session, Smithtown East claimed its second straight Class A crown with Willetts’ goal.

“At our last timeout, [Willetts] said he wanted the ball in the huddle,” Lambert said. “He got it and he put it where it’s supposed to go.”

Willetts was overcome with emotion for what he was able to help his team achieve.

“I practiced that shot so many times,” he said. “It was a surreal feeling to be able to get that shot off for the game-winning goal for a team that I love so much.”

Lambert said that Ward Melville always sets the bar high, adding that as long as lacrosse has been played on Long Island, the Patriots have been at the top.

“I’m just so happy for these kids,” Lambert said. “We played a phenomenal opponent here tonight. They have great players; they have all the history there. My boys believed, they didn’t stop, they kept digging and they kept fighting.”

Smithtown East will face Syosset on Saturday for the Class A Long Island Championship title at Stony Brook University, with the opening faceoff scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

The boys are excited to get another shot at a Long Island title, as the team fell in a close 13-12 match to Massapequa last year.

“I’m so happy to get back to this point; to have another chance to win a Long Island Championship, it sure means a lot,” Turner said. “It means so much [to this team] and this time, we’re going to finish it.”