STILLWATER — Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake took the long road back the Section II title game.
Raia James scored on a tap-in 49 seconds into the second sudden-victory overtime as the Spartans clipped Mohonasen in a physical Section II Class A semifinal soccer game on the Stillwater turf Monday night.
The game had several player collisions and the last of them, on the goal line, came just before James’ goal propelled Burnt Hills into the championship tilt for the first time since it won the last of its 14 crowns in 2015.
“I saw the ball being sent in and coach always says, ‘Attack the keeper,’ ” James, a junior forward, said. “I thought something crazy was going to happen.”
Mohonasen goalkeeper Megan Hart and Burnt Hills midfielder Cassidy Karl were both going for the ball when they collided and went down in a heap. That left James to finish the marathon that was tied at 2-2 after regulation, and remained that way through a pair of 10-minute overtimes and the first of two five-minute sudden-victory OTs.
No defender was near James when the ball trickled her way.
“All I had to do was finish,” she said. “Easiest one I scored.”
Lauren DeWeese set the winning play in motion with a left-to-right throw-in.
“Cassidy and their goalie collided and the ball ended up on Raia’s chest,” said Burnt Hills forward Molly Boone, a team captain and one of its five seniors. “She walked it in. Easy goal.”
Burnt Hills (No. 7 seed, 9-9) had beaten South Glens Falls in overtime 3-1 in the quarterfinal round after opening tournament play with a 9-0 win against Emma Willard.
“When we got to the second sudden-victory, I told my assistant we’re not going to go to penalty kicks,” Burnt Hills coach Brian Bold said. “We felt momentum was going our way in OT.”
Mohonasen (No. 6 seed, 12-5-1) reached the Class A final last year before losing to Scotia-Glenville and shared the title with Averill Park in 2016 before advancing to the state tournament on penalty kicks. A Young group with one senior, Hailey Dunsmore, nearly got there again but couldn’t find that third goal after battling back from a 2-0 deficit.
“This team came such a long way,” said second-year Mohonasen coach Clint DeMyer. “When the started the season, the word ‘shaky’ was an understatement. They just got better and better.”
Hart was superb in the overtime sessions, with the junior making seven saves including a pair of point-blank stops against Karl in the first five-minute OT.
“Hat’s off to their goalie,” Bold said.
“She is, by far, the top goalie in the section, regardless of class,” DeMyer said. “Our goalie last year is now at UAlbany and she (Hart] was our backup. Usually when you lose a Division I keeper you lose some sleep at night. Didn’t happen. She works so hard.”
Mohonasen pulled even in the second half on goals by Dunsmore with 30:16 left and by Rachel Nadareski with 15:12 to go, that tally coming off a corner kick from Isabella O’Clair.
“We had games like that before,” James said. “After they tied it, I had confidence in my teammates and myself.”
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“We got a little complacent with the two-goal lead,” Boone said. “They got a goal, that gave them momentum, and they fed off that. We just never quit. We knew we’d walk off with a win.”
Karl scored 1:34 into the contest, and Boone made it 2-0 6:04 in after heading a corner kick from Karl.
Burnt Hills was derailed in last year’s semifinals by Scotia-Glenville and in the 2016 semis by Averill Park. Before that, the Spartans had made nine consecutive title-game appearances.
“We struggled in the regular season, but it was ‘stay focused and stay the course,'” Bold said. “They’ve got a never-give-up attitude.”
Burnt Hills and Averill Park (No. 1 seed, 12-2-4) will meet in Friday’s 7 p.m. title game at Stillwater. Averill Park eliminated Ballston Spa (No. 4, 9-6-2) 2-0 in the second semifinal on goals by Micayla Slattery and Brigid Clark.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.
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Categories: High School Sports, Sports