By Darek Sharp
TAMPA — After 72 well-played but scoreless minutes Jesuit and Osceola staged a thrilling conclusion, with Jesuit winning the 3A-Region 2 semifinals 2-1 in overtime Tuesday night.
Two minutes into the extra session sophomore Joel Brewer took a pass from Connar Lufkin and made a split decision to chip the ball over goalkeeper Luis Tavares. The shot snuck under the crossbar.
"I had never tried that one before. I just wanted to get it on target," Brewer said.
Jesuit (22-4-1) advanced to face Merritt Island in the region finals Friday. Merritt Island has knocked out the Tigers at the stage each of the past two seasons.
They almost didn't get past an Osceola team which was into the second round for the first time in a dozen seasons. After a quick start, Jesuit's Royce Pope created a couple of dangerous chances on goal but the staunch Warriors defense kept the Tigers at bay for long periods.
"They were such a hard-working team, I knew they would be," Jesuit coach Eric Sims said. "They gave us everything they had. And as the game went on they played better soccer."
Jesuit really had to be patient as an already tough Osceola back line, led by 6-foot-2 senior Spencer Finkhousen and Steven Nelson, added a fifth player at times. The Tigers didn't get a shot on goal through 25 minutes but started to threaten, and finally broke through on a corner kick.
Brewer's header slammed off the crossbar into the path of Lufkin, who scored his 17th of the year with eight minutes left. But Osceola (17-3-1), which had pinned its offensive hopes on rare long passes into space, pressed up and tied it four minutes later.
Nathan To's long-distance drive was stopped by a diving Tim Gyenis. But sophomore Taso Halverson, up from defense, deposited the rebound himself. It was just his second goal.
"We didn't expect that. We were definitely let down at that point but we kept fighting," Brewer said.
Early in OT, Jesuit barely missed wide before Brewer got the clincher.
"I thought our pace would get to them, and finally it did later on. Joel usually kills teams with his speed," Sims said.
Both teams made strong bids to score in the first half, never more than when both teams had near misses on headers in the 24th minute. Jake Collins' went off the crossbar for Jesuit and Osceola's Trey Smith sent a Romero Garcia cross over the bar. Benny Ortiz and Brewer had several strong combinations as well.
Jesuit limited 26-goal scorer Trevar Rau to just one shot.