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Massapequa lacrosse: From running time to state title time

The Massapequa Chiefs celebrate after defeating the Fayetteville-Manlius

The Massapequa Chiefs celebrate after defeating the Fayetteville-Manlius Hornets to win the 2014 New York State Class A High School Boys Lacrosse Championship game at James M. Shuart Stadium on June 7, 2014 in Uniondale, New York. Credit: Mike Stobe

Seven times Massapequa had reached the Long Island Class A boys lacrosse title game. Seven times the Chiefs' season had ended there.

But 2014 was a different time. It was Massapequa's time. It was running time.

"Sometimes, when we struggled early in a game, I'd be a nervous wreck," Massapequa coach Tim Radomski said. "The kids would calm me down. They'd say, 'Don't worry coach, we got this.' This is the most unselfish team I've ever coached. Share the ball, share the wealth."

That spirit allowed Massapequa to win its final 17 games, average 17.5 goals in its six playoff games and so dominate in the state tournament that it reached running-time status in both the semifinal and final, establishing the required 12-goal margin and winning by 14 in both contests.

In securing the school's first Long Island and state Class A championships in boys lacrosse, Massapequa prevented hotbed Long Island from being shut out in the state tourney for the first time since 2003. Long Island's Class B and C champions both lost in the state semifinals this year.

"It's been such a great ride and I'm so proud and happy we can end it like this," senior attack Ian Kirby said after the Chiefs' 16-2 victory over Fayetteville-Manlius in the June 7 state championship game in which Kirby broke it open with a natural hat trick in the third quarter.

Kirby was the team's top scorer with 77 points (45 goals), part of a potent six-pack that each netted at least 20 goals, led by senior attack Jim Byrns with 49 (and 69 points). Senior midfielder Craig Berge was the team's prime playmaker with 44 assists (and 24 goals). Juniors Paul Dilena (34 goals, 16 assists), Carter Hawthorne (20 goals, 23 assists) and sophomore Ryan Tierney (22 goals, 25 assists) also contributed to an offense that often overshadowed a lockdown defense featuring three Division I players and a steady sometimes spectacular goaltender who was at his best in a tense 13-12 victory over Smithtown East in the Long Island championship game, the Chiefs' only stern playoff test.

"I have the best defense in the country in front of me," goalie Matt Valdini said of fellow seniors Nick Capuana, Matt Caracappa and Nick Balzano. "They're three of the greatest guys I know. We have it all on this team -- faceoffs, wing play and our offense is amazing. They move the ball real well and put the ball in the back of the net. It's nice seeing the ball on the other side of the field so often."

Faceoff specialist Phil Brady, a junior who was "a question mark coming into the season," according to Radomski, flourished in the final month under the tutelage of Massapequa graduate Joe DeMarco, who played as a freshman at Syracuse this season and came back to help his ex-teammate.

"Every single game he improved, which is a rare thing," Berge said of Brady. "He was a key to this whole thing."

When Massapequa's thrill ride ended with the prerequisite pile on the field, ice water dousing of Radomski and presentation of the championship trophy, several Chiefs reached for the hardware. But Radomski wouldn't let go. "I'll take it!" he said, and proceeded to hold it aloft and parade it in front of the many Massapequa fans at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium.

Running time had turned into celebration time.

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