South Side wins state championship in OT thriller

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Trailing by five goals in the second half for the second time in four days, South Side’s boys’ lacrosse team scripted an ending fit for Hollywood Saturday afternoon in the New York State Class B boys’ lacrosse championship game.

The Cyclones forced overtime on Michael Aiello’s dramatic goal with 0.8 seconds remaining in regulation, then secured the title 19 seconds into OT when Cole DiPietro took a pass from Liam Livingston and went top shelf for an unforgettable 12-11 win over Victor at Hofstra University.

“There’s never any quit in us,” said Aiello, who had three goals and three assists. “It’s such a special group. We have 27 seniors and amazing chemistry. I love all these guys. We worked hard every single day and to finish state champs is just surreal.”

South Side, which won its 15th consecutive game and captured its first state crown since 2004, fed off the energy of a large crowd to complete its second unlikely comeback in as many games. The Cyclones (21-1) rallied from a five-goal deficit late in the third quarter to defeat Yorktown, 10-8, in Wednesday’s state semifinal at the University of Albany.

“It’s indescribable,” said South Side coach Steve DiPietro, who was its offensive coordinator in 2004. “These kids are all grit. They kept battling and battling and trusted each other like they have all season.”

It was also a proud dad moment for DiPietro, whose son netted the state title-clinching goal.

“I couldn’t have wished for anything more,” the coach said. “Liam’s setup was perfect and Cole finished it.”

Livingston scored twice in the fourth quarter and junior Cullen Lynch ignited the rally with three goals after the Blue Devils took an 8-3 lead 4:20 into the third quarter. Owen West and Griffin Mills also scored.

“The only way I can describe this is it’s the greatest moment ever,” said Michael Melkonian, whose dominance on faceoffs (131 wins, 20 losses) throughout the playoffs keyed the championship run. “I’m so proud of my teammates and coaches,” he added. “We’re all just ecstatic right now. It’s something we’ll remember forever.”

A wild celebration with sticks, gloves and helmets soaring through the air followed DiPietro’s second tiebreaking goal in less than five minutes. He scored with 4:29 remaining in the fourth quarter to give the Cyclones their first lead of the game at 10-9.

“It was just a fever dream,” Cole DiPietro said. “It’s a great way to go out for a large senior group and for the younger guys to take this into next season.”

Victor, making its seventh appearance in the state championship game in 10 seasons, took a 9-5 lead into a final quarter that saw South Side score six times, including five in a row. Goals by Aiello, Lynch and Livingston (two) created the first of three deadlocks in the fourth.

The Blue Devils regained the lead at 11-10 with 1:30 remaining and had a chance to extend it but the ensuing possession resulted in a turnover. South Side used its final timeout with 14 seconds remaining and with the ball just inside midfield.

“We set up a play for me up top, but the opening wasn’t there so I just put my head down and went for the cage,” Aiello said. “I knew I barely had any time, but that inside roll was working all day so I went for it.”

For Patrick Mullin, the victory stamped him as one of the most decorated student-athletes in school history. He was a member of South Side’s Long Island champion basketball team in March of 2023 and also part of the football team’s county title winning squad last fall.

“They’re all special but this one is my favorite,” said Mullin, who along with Will O’Toole, Michael Grossman, Chris Diez, Nicholas Papadopolous and James Sullivan led the defense in front of goaltender Michael Muscarella. “To win the state championship in this fashion is just incredible,” Mullin added.