After falling just short in a classic, four-overtime contest with Babylon almost a month ago, Mattituck/Greenport/Southold was hoping to duplicate that intensity with a different result in the Suffolk County Class D lacrosse final last Wednesday.

But that never came close to materializing as the Tuckers came out slow and suffered the consequences.

The Panthers rolled to an 8-0 advantage by the end of the third quarter as the Tuckers suffered an 11-3 defeat at Longwood High School.

“I think we came out really flat,” Mattituck head coach John Amato said. “In the big game I think this was too much. We haven’t done really well with pressure all season, and then it showed right there. You could tell as the game went along, the pressure was a little bit less and we were able to connect on passes and do the little things right. I just think that the lights were a little too bright in the beginning for the boys.”

After dropping that April 25 match, the No. 2 Tuckers (5-12) were optimistic they could stay with their top-seeded Babylon rivals (10-5), flip the score and defend their 2023 county championship.

“We didn’t make it close,” said senior co-captain Alex Clark, who finished with a goal and an assist. “We knew it was going to be a fight.”

“I thought this game we were going to come out with a lot more firepower,” said senior defender Bryce Walling. “Unfortunately, it didn’t end up like that. They just have more dog in them. They wanted it more, which is hard to say as a senior … I don’t think everyone on my team was on the same page. We definitely didn’t show it out there.”

The Tuckers defeated the Panthers 12-5 in last year’s county final. 

“Losing to us in this game last year just fueled them and they returned everyone,” Amato said. “I’m not surprised. I knew they were going to come out with fire.”

Babylon plays for the Long Island Class D championship title against the winner of the Nassau County final between Cold Spring Harbor and Friends Academy, Wednesday, May 29, at Hofstra University.

Exactly three minutes into the match, Babylon senior Ben Dellafranca scored from 15 yards, off an assist from his brother, junior Shane Dellafranca, past sophomore goaltender Andrew McKenzie (10 saves). Shane Dellafranca added a goal from the left side at 8:32 to grab a 2-0 first-half advantage.

It didn’t help that the Tuckers coughed up four turnovers to the Panthers’ one in the opening period, and that Owen Morris won all three faceoffs against Mattituck sophomore Nate Steinfeld.

Possession is so vital in lacrosse. Not only does it fuel the offense, it allows the defense to rest.

“We came out a little slow,” Clark said. “I guess we weren’t ready for it. It took us a while to start to respond.”

Dom Kunhla made it 3-0 at 2:39 of the second quarter before the Panthers put the match away with five consecutive goals for an 8-0 margin in the third quarter.

Dellafranca and Keven Bonilla, who each notched hat tricks, scored twice during that surge, and Colin O’Brien tallied the first of his two goals.

“We wanted to match their physicality, but we were unable to pull it off after that quick lead,” said Tuckers junior attacker Tanner Vaccarella, who contributed a goal.

“They were just moving the ball quick. We have a hell of defense, and we just got to give it to them.”

Clark finally broke the ice, scoring from point-blank range past goalie Patrick Costa (four saves) at 9:04. Junior attack Shane Psaltis (1:07) and Vaccarella (5:04) added fourth-quarter goals.

The game marked the final match for three seniors — long stick midfielder William Gammon, Walling and Clark.

“It’s really sad to end this way,” Clark said. “But I’m proud of what everybody’s done this year. It’s been a lot of fun. I’m thankful for it. It obviously would have been nice to do what we did last year, but hopefully now the younger kids get to do it next year.”

Amato said he was impressed with the tenacity of the team as it struggled through a seven-game losing streak during the regular season.

“They never gave up,” he said. “We kept fighting through that. And then we went on a four-game winning streak. I think that was huge.”

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