KETTERING — Cincinnati Mariemont outpossessed and outshot Botkins by large margins in a Division III regional semifinal on Wednesday at Fairmont Park. But junior forward Zane Paul came up with the game’s only goal on an impressive header to keep the Trojans’ tournament run alive.
Botkins’ 1-0 victory over the Warriors advances the squad to a Div. III regional final against Cincinnati Seven Hills on Saturday at a site and time to be determined.
“My boys just gutted it out,” Botkins coach Kevin Lynch said. “They’re a hard working group of kids. They just won’t let anybody score on them. They just gut it out, whatever it takes.”
Mariemont outshot Botkins 5-1 in the first half and had a shot on goal in the first two minutes of the second half which Botkins freshman goalkeeper Carson Motter made a diving one-handed stop on.
The Trojans then quickly worked the ball upfield and got a free kick after a foul. The ball was sent to the goal box and a shot bounced off the top of the crossbar. Paul, who is among the state’s leaders in goals, headed in the deflected shot to give the Botkins a 1-0 lead with 37:24 left for his 43rd goal of the season.
The Warriors had four shots in nine seconds after a free kick with about 19 minutes left but couldn’t get any in the net. They had several others in the second half they also couldn’t score on.
“It was a great game by our defense,” Lynch said. “They just toughed it out. …Second half, we played a little bit better soccer. But the boys play hard and they left everything on the field. For a freshman, (Motter) made some really, really nice saves. I’ve been working with him since he was 10 (years old), so I’m happy for him.
“… We knew corner kicks was one of their strengths, so we were very well organized on those and we defended well. We knew they were going to probably have possession of the ball, so we weren’t too worried about that. It’s not about winning possession; it’s about winning the game.”
Botkins (18-0-2) had never made it past a sectional final before this season but has dominated in tournament play and outscored its opponents 32-1. The squad will try to keep the run going against Seven Hills, which beat Columbus Grandview Heights 2-1 in a semifinal on Wednesday.
Mariemont possessed the ball for most of the first half but the Trojans crowded the goal and unofficially gave up four shots in the half. Botkins didn’t get it across midfield much, though, and didn’t get a shot until the final four minutes.
“We just didn’t come out and play smart in the first half,” Lynch said. “I told them at halftime that we have to come out and play wide. We just didn’t boot the ball. But like I told them at halftime, if we played good defense, who knows what’s going to happen. It only takes one shot. It doesn’t matter how many shots you take, what matters is who puts the ball in the back of the net.”
Mariemont finishes 14-4-2 overall.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.