Last minute heroics send Griffins to finals

Defender Alina Perez sends the ball forward to stall a Lions attack. Courtesy photo

Los Alamitos High’s girls soccer team scored a game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation against Oak Christian, to force overtime and then wound up winning a penalty-kick shootout to punch their ticket to the CIF-SS Division 1 championship game on Friday at Los Alamitos High.

The Griffins trailed 2-1 late in the game and were pressing hard to try and get the equalizer. After Oak Christian cleared the ball, the Griffins sent a long pass deep into the Lions’ zone. Sophomore Sophia Bugarin was able to get possession and get a shot attempt, but it hit a defender and rebounded out to the left side of the goal. Bugarin beat the defenders to the ball for a second attempt and this time, buried it in the back of the net.

After two 10-minute overtimes, the score remained tied 2-2 and the teams lined up for a penalty kick shootout. Three days earlier, the Griffins had needed similar late-game heroics to force overtime against Mira Costa and had also won in a shoot-out. Freshman goalie Avarie Gonzalez had made big saves against Mira Costa to help the Griffins advance to the semifinals.

Against Oak Christian, senior Kaylee Noble started the shootout with a low shot to the right to give the Griffins a 1-0 lead. The Lions’ first shooter tried a low shot to the right, but Gonzalez anticipated correctly and made a lunging save.

Senior forward Sanaa Guyness followed with a shot to the right side of the goal that hit easily as the goalie was anticipating left side. Oak was able to score on their next attempt, but sophomore Viviana Zacarias extended the Grififns lead to 3-1 with a low kick to the right side. Gonzalez made another save on a low shot to the right and the Lions’ goalkeeper followed with a save of her own. Needing a goal to keep the shootout going, the Lions shooter had Gonzalez leaning the wrong way, but her high shot to the left floated high and glanced off the top of the cross bar to give the Griffins the win.

The Griffins had taken an early 1-0 lead in the first half, when Zee Malinowski knocked in a crossing pass that slipped through a crowd in front of the net. But the Lions responded just a couple of minutes later, with a shot from about 25 yards that slipped under the crossbar. Late in the first half, the Lions grabbed the lead with a ship in off a crossing pass off an end line attack.

Los Alamitos will play Santa Margarita for the championship on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Veteran Stadium, Long Beach.