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Key West Conchs Head Coach
Leon Lions Head Coach
It came down to the final minutes for a team to score between the Key West Conchs and the Leon Lions. Luck was on the side of Conchs as Jeremy Tilus shot the ball from 7 yards out. The Leon goalie made a diving stop and the ball fell into the feet of Bidiue Noel. Noel struck the ball and Key West escaped the quarterfinals of the Hickory Point Invitational with a 1-0 victory over Leon High School.
“I told our boys that if we let a team hang around long enough, they will find a way to score. And they scored that late one. Going into the last minutes, you have to have high intensity and want it more and Key West wanted it a little bit more than us right there,” said Leon head coach Jamie McBrearty.
The entire game, both sides were playing very physical. It was a battle of two strong defenses right from the start. In the 11th minute Noel had an early shot to score but the ball sailed wide left and the score would stand at 0-0 after the first water break. Just minutes later, Leon nearly scored on a corner kick cross which Key West keeper Jacob Elomina punched out of the box.
In the 21st minute, Spencer Hamilton dribbled the ball up the gut of the Leon defense and tapped it forward to Noel who then shot it. The Leon keeper made a fantastic stop and at halftime the score stood at zero apiece.
At the start of the second half, Leon was looking to score fast. A few passes between the strikers set up a long range strike. In as goalie in the second half for Key West, Christian Lee was caught too far out and hesitated to stop the ball. The ball slammed into the post and the Key West defenders cleared the ball.
“He beat the keeper and it was a good shot but it hit the post. Ya know, that’s just the way it goes, that’s soccer for ya. The ball might have caught the wind a bit. It looked like it was going to hit the back of net, but hit the post instead. It was close,” said McBrearty.
Minutes later with Key West back on offense, Hamilton took a shot from 20 yards out. The ball seemed to be deflected by the goalie which would have set up a corner kick, however it hit the top post and went outabounds giving Leon a goalkick.
In the 70 minute, Patrick Matysik shot from the top of the box with a good look to the left post but yet again the Leon keeper dove for the ball stretching out for an incredible save. Key West would continue to play physical on defense and hold the Lions from scoring.
“We were able to keep them from scoring. I mean we got lucky because they had shots that hit the post but we also had shots that were very close to going in too. I thought our defense played a very physical game with them,” said Key West head coach Marc Pierre.
With time winding down, Key West was looking to score. Van Wilson crossed the ball to Brian Coward who was surrounded by Leon defenders. Coward was able to make space and pass it to Tilus who shot from 7 yards out. It seemed as though the game was heading to overtime, but Noel tapped the rebound to the back of the net giving Key West a 1-0 victory over Leon.
“I think this was a very physical game. The refs did a great job controlling the game and calling most of the fouls. It was a very intense game all the way until the final whistle,” said Pierre.
Key West plays again at 6pm tonight in the semifinals. The Conchs will face Evans, a team that won the whole tournament last year. Evans, a 5A school from Orlando, were able defeat Chiles, a 4A team from Tallahassee, with a final score of 2-1.
“We wanted it more than the other team in the last five minutes. It’s all about who wants it more in a game like this and we showed that we wanted it more. We won the game in the last five minutes,” said Pierre.
As for Leon, they will face Chiles tonight in hope of reaching the fourth place game tomorrow morning in the consolation bracket.
“We were a bit tired and had a couple injuries late, but going into the last minutes you got to just have intensity. That’s just how the cookie crumbles in a close game like this,” said McBrearty.
The Conchs, now ranked 6th in the FHSAA Class 2A according to MaxPreps, must battle it out with Evans High School vieing for a spot in the Hickory Point Invitational Championship game tomorrow morning.
“I am expecting a good game tonight. This team (Evans) is also really good and a top team in the nation. They are top ten in the nation and I like playing teams like that. We can really test ourselves tonight and we like that. We are going to be tired, but I am sure we can do it,” said Pierre.
As for the other side of the championship bracket, F.W. Bucholz defeated Lincoln with a score of 1-0. Like the Key West-Leon game, this one also was scoreless until the very end as Bucholz won on a penalty kick in the final seconds.
Osceola came back from being down 3-2 against Palmetto to winning 5-3. Osceola will now face Bucholz in the other semifinal tonight at 8pm after the Key West-Evans semifinal. The Hickory Point Invitational is heating up with key matchups tonight that will determine who plays in the championship game tomorrow morning.