Steven Cuccurullo's clutch faceoffs, Brian Willetts' five goals lift Smithtown East

Smithtown East's Brian Willetts keeps control during a Smithtown East's Brian Willetts keeps control during a Suffolk boys lacrosse game against Half Hollow Hills West. Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

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Steven Cuccurullo prefaced his postgame demonstration with somewhat of a misguided introduction.

"It's pretty technical, so it's a little boring," said the Smithtown East freshman, who is one of three faceoff specialists on the team.

Cuccurullo suddenly became intense, however. His eyes lit up as he went on one knee to show and tell a befuddled reporter about his "clamping skills," which he used to win several faceoffs and secure key possessions during the second half of Smithtown East's 11-7 win over host Half Hollow Hills West in Suffolk Division I boys lacrosse Tuesday.

"I clamped down with my left arm and sort of popped the ball out or toward me. And that's basically the key adjustment I knew I had to make for us," Cuccurullo said as he moved one arm closer to an imaginary ball. "What I'm best at is figuring other guys out and doing something that works."

Cuccurullo didn't start, but coach Jason Lambert said, "He saved us for the second straight game."

Brian Willetts scored five goals for Smithtown East, including a buzzer-beater from about 15 yards out at the end of the second quarter to tie the score at 5.

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"That was big for us in terms of momentum," Willetts said. "They overplayed my left hand so I turned around and ripped a deep shot with my right and I'm happy that it helped us get going."

Willetts didn't stop there. He put Smithtown East (3-0) ahead 6-5 with a blast from close range with 5:15 left in the third quarter. The goal was set up by freshman midfielder Connor DeSimone, who grabbed a ground ball, ran the entire field and fed Willetts.

"Our coach told us that scooping up ground balls would be the difference in the second half," said DeSimone, who had six. "So we changed our mind-set and went after everything we saw."

Ryan Ozsvath scored three goals within the game's first five minutes for Hills West, but after a sluggish start, Smithtown East held the Colts (1-2) scoreless in the third quarter and sealed the win with a 4-0 run. While Willetts led the attack as usual, the Bulls dominated possession and raced to seemingly every ground ball.

"It's an embarrassment of riches," Lambert said. "We have young guys who we can use when the more experienced guys don't have their best game. It's a blessing."

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