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Hamilton-Amaya connection spurs Center Moriches to soccer title

Center Moriches' Thomas Luongo, left, and Ben Hamilton,

Center Moriches' Thomas Luongo, left, and Ben Hamilton, center, celebrate with Eric Amaya on Amaya's goal during the second half of the Long Island Class B championship on Oct. 31, 2017 at Diamond in the Pines. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

They have been playing soccer together since kindergarten and they are best friends. So no way did Ben Hamilton and Eric Amaya of Center Moriches want this to be their last play date.

So they took matters into their own . . . feet. Hamilton corralled a strong throw-in from Liam Pulsipher and sent a pass to a streaking Amaya, who scored to spark a late flurry that gave the Red Devils a 4-1 victory over the Wheatley School on Tuesday in the Long Island Class B boys soccer championship game played at breezy Diamond in the Pines in Coram.

Hamilton, Long Island’s leading scorer with 56 points and goal-scorer with 36, did not hit the back of the net for the first time this season. But he delivered another slick touch pass to Pulshiper for the tie-breaking goal one minute after Amaya scored the first of his two goals as Center Moriches (18-0) remained Long Island’s only undefeated, untied boys soccer team.

“We kept getting better and better chances in the second half,” said Hamilton, acknowledging the difficulty both he and his teammates had after trailing 1-0 at halftime on Alec Marcus’ goal off a feed from Brandon Martins in the 34th minute. “When I saw Eric coming, I flicked it to him and just turned and ran back on defense. I knew he was going to score. I don’t think there’s anybody in the state that has better chemistry than we do.”

The next chemistry test comes Saturday in the state regional, when Center Moriches faces the winner of Wednesday’s Rye Neck-Rhinebeck game.

After the Hamilton-Amaya connection with 23:40 remaining, it was as if a drain had been unclogged. The Red Devils wound up scoring four goals in 17:15. “We missed some opportunities in the first half but we hung in there and peppered him,” Center Moriches coach Chris O’Brien said of Wildcats goalkeeper Zach Jacobs, who excelled with 11 saves, including three from close range on Hamilton. “After we got the equalizer, we felt good about ourselves and just poured it on. That’s been our MO.”

Wheatley defender Lex Wain did a solid job on Hamilton, often getting help from another sweeper. “I knew their game plan was to cover Ben and double him,” Amaya said. “But when you do that, you forget about our other players. Our intensity never dropped. We kept attacking and finally finished our opportunities.”

Hamilton was unfazed by his first goal-less game this season. “I’m in it for the win, not for my goals,” he said. “This was definitely a revenge game. The day after we lost the LIC last year (to Carle Place on penalty kicks) we were out there practicing, getting ready for this. We’re going after a state title.”

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