Tuckers boys lax squad clings to playoff hopes after tough loss to Babylon

Mattituck/Greenport/Southold showed they could compete with the big boys of Suffolk County Class D lacrosse. Whether the Tuckers will have an opportunity to do so again in the postseason is another matter.

Colin O’Brien scored 62 seconds into the fourth overtime to lift host Babylon to a dramatic 4-3 victory in a Division II game that had all the intensity of a playoff matchup on a bright, breezy Thursday evening.

The defeat was a let down for the Tuckers (1-10, 1-8), who felt they played as well as the Panthers (7-2, 7-2).

“It shows that we can compete with them,” said senior midfielder Alex Clark. “They’ve beaten some pretty good teams. We had to come out the winners but we expect to see them again later in the year and get a chance at them.”

Despite their record, the Tuckers still can reach the Class D final at William Floyd on May 22. Seedings are not decided by records, but by power rankings and the top two schools will vie for the title. According to, Babylon has 117.56 points. Center Moriches (3-7, 2-6) was at 77.02, followed by Port Jefferson (3-6, 2-6) at 74.86 and MGS at 69.79. So, there is a steep hill to climb.

Tuesday’s contest was a rematch of last year’s Class D final, in which the Tuckers prevailed, 12-5.

This encounter was much closer.

“It was definitely an intense game,” Clark said. “Both teams don’t like each other and want to win. We were all going hard for almost five quarters.”

Early on, the Tuckers were plagued with passing and possession problems, repeatedly giving the ball away on the attack. Ben Dellafranca lifted Babylon to a 1-0 lead at 7:08 in the opening period.

“We came out really nervous and really tense,” head coach John Amato said. “I told them, ‘Just relax, take a deep breath. It’s just a game of lacrosse. You can’t overthink it. You’ve got to play fast and slow your mind down and just let the game come to you.’ “

His team listened. Junior attacker Rocco Horton tied it at 7:15 of the second quarter, firing a rocket from the right side. Freshman midfielder Rafa Finnerty gave the Tuckers a 2-1 lead at 10:24 and Clark made it 3-1 on a one-bounce shot past goalie Patrick Costa for a man-advantage goal at 2:55 of the third quarter.

“A lot of times it catches the goalie off-guard,” Clark said.

Babylon, however, struck twice within a six-second span in the third quarter. O’Brien tallied from the left side at 4:36 and after Brady Shaw won the ensuing faceoff, Shane Dellafranca quickly tied it 3-3.

The teams then battled through three scoreless, four-minute overtime periods.

The game plan for both sides was to win the opening faceoff and maintain possession to set up a shot with little time remaining.

At the start of the fourth OT, Shaw won his faceoff with William Gammon and Babylon called a timeout to discuss strategy. Instead of killing clock, O’Brien found a hole on the right and whipped a quick shot past goaltender Andrew McKenzie for the game-winner.

“Our guys really stepped up to the challenge and believed in themselves,” Amato said.

McKenzie was outstanding throughout the contest, notching eight saves. “He was phenomenal,” Clark said. “We’re super thankful to have him as a goalie,” Finnerty added.

McKenzie’s most memorable stop came with 1:26 remaining in the third overtime, denying O’Brien’s point-blank attempt.

“I was trying to cover as much of the net as soon as I could,” he said. “I know he’s a lefty. I held my stick out and hoped for the best. He put it on my stick. Good save and kept the game going.”

The Tuckers outside shot of reaching the playoffs won’t come easy after junior attacker Justin Fox (11 goals) suffered a broken collar bone in an 11-3 loss to Westhampton on April 19.

“Fox was a huge piece for us,” Amato said. “We’ve got to figure it out.”

The team has five matches remaining, including against Port Jefferson on Friday and Center Moriches on May 9. Wins against those Class D rivals could go a long way to boosting their power ranking.

“We’ve got to win the games we’re supposed to win here on out and take care of business as it comes,” Amato said. “If we do that, we earn another chance to play [Babylon] again.”