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BILL ALKOFER , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Los Alamitos' Julian Guerrero and Anthony Mejia II look to head the ball near the goal during Tuesday's playoff game against Santa Barbara.

Los Alamitos falls on last-minute goal in OT

STAFF WRITER

With one minute remaining in the second overtime period, the race began at Los Alamitos High. Peter Ruiz sprinted down the field on a counter attack for Santa Barbara, while Griffins tried desperately to catch up.

It was a moment Los Alamitos coach Donovan Martinez said wouldn’t have happened in the CIF-SS Division 1 boys soccer semifinal if the Griffins had been “more mindful and sharp for the entire time.”

Los Al coudn’t track down the Dons senior midfielder, and Ruiz’s shot from the left side of the box bounced off the far post and into the back of the net, delivering a 1-0 triumph for Santa Barbara on Tuesday night.

“It is a tough way to lose, but I do give credit to our kids, they have had a great season,” Martinez said.

Nine Orange County teams began the Division 1 playoffs this month, and the fourth-seeded Griffins (19-4-5) were the last team standing.

“I think I will be happy (about the season) later on, next week or in a few days,” Martinez said. “To lose in the last minute is tough, but this game is unforgiving.”

The Griffins came close to scoring in the first 10-minute overtime period. Anthony Mejia II flicked the ball across the front of the Dons’ goal to Adrian Garcia, who headed it toward the near post. But a Santa Barbara defender knocked the ball away, keeping from crossing the goalline.

“I thought it was going in,” Martinez said. “That is about as close as you can get without scoring. It was a close one.”

The Grffins had plenty of chances to put Santa Barbara (23-5-3) away, using Kevin Herring’s speed to stretch the field and get behind the Dons’ backline.

Santa Barbara coach Todd Heil said from the start he could tell Los Alamitos had a lot more energy than his team.

“We tried to keep them at bay as much as we could,” Heil said, “and tried to keep No. 7 (Herring) off frame as best as we could. He is fast.”

Two of Los Alamitos’ best scoring chances in the second half started with Herring.

In the 44th minute, he crossed the ball in to Aron Rudich at top of the 6-yard box, but Rudich collided with a pair of Santa Barbara defenders as he was getting ready to take a shot, and the ball went over the crossbar.

Less than 10 minutes later, he started a counter attack, passing the ball to Rudich, who then found Bryan Oyama open on the left side of the field, but his shot was too high.

“When you have those opportunities, you have to put them away,” Martinez said. “But you really have to give them (Santa Barbara) credit for what they did.”

In Division 5:

Santiago 1, Crossroads 0 (OT): Gio Diaz scored off a Felipe Sanchez corner kick in the first overtime period for the visitng Cavaliers (20-4-5). The defending Division 5 champions will play Garden Grove in the final.

In Division 7:

Saddleback Valley Christian 2, Foothill Tech 1: Brian Peek scored a goal, his county-leading 34th of the season, and added an assist as the visiting Eagles (17-3-0) advanced to the championship match. They will play Fillmore in the final.


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