Greenwood senior Edin Hasanovic had mixed feelings Tuesday night, as did many of his teammates.
The second-seeded Gators (13-4-3) were in a celebratory mood after beating third-seeded South Warren 4-1 in the semifinals of the Boys’ District 14 Soccer Tournament at GHS.
But just one year removed from feeling the same anguish as the Spartans, there was also some empathy involved.
”It’s a good feeling for the win, but it also breaks my heart,” Hasanovic said. “Half of those people on the other team are my closest friends. Ending people’s seasons – it’s not easy.”
South Warren (11-6-2) didn’t make the job any easier for Greenwood, which advances to face top-seeded Bowling Green at 8 p.m. Thursday for the district championship. Both finalists will move on to the Region 4 Tournament.
The Spartans kept Greenwood in check until the second half, when Hasanovic put the Gators ahead for good with his second goal. They netted two more back-breaking scores in the final minutes to pull away.
Last season, South Warren beat Greenwood on penalty kicks in the semifinals to reach its first region tournament in program history. All three of the team’s meetings a year ago went to penalty kicks – with SWHS winning two – but the Gators swept this year’s three-game season series.
“This is an intense district game,” Greenwood coach Scott Gural said. “I think it shows you something, that our players celebrated this. It meant something to us. They ended our season last year. They have proven that when it counts, they can give us all we can handle. It took a special effort from our guys to step up.”
Edin Hasanovic scored his first goal less than a minute into the game on a breakaway, but South Warren responded with a penalty kick by his cousin, senior Armin Hasanovic, in the third minute.
Neither team found any more momentum until the 57th minute, when Edin Hasanovic gave the Gators the lead for good by netting a free kick.
Senior Dylan Dewitt and junior Dursun Akhmedov scored in the final four minutes to close out the win for Greenwood.
“That was a great team win,” Edin Hasanovic said. “We had to come out ready to play an excellent South Warren team, and that’s how you end a game in the second half when it matters.”
The Gators outshot South Warren 18-13. Greenwood goalkeeper Mitch O’Kelly made three saves, while SWHS goalkeeper Hunter Ferry recorded six saves.
The Spartans had four seniors who played this season – Ferry, Armin Hasanovic, Cooper Mattingly and Clayton Palmer.
“It’s just hard,” SWHS coach Tom Alexander said. “Our seniors, I feel terrible for them. They deserve better. They’ve each been with us for three or four years. Greenwood’s a good team, and they’ll finish chances that they get. We gave them too many, and we didn’t finish enough. They deserved to win, and we wish them the best.
“Last year, we were on the happy end of this, and this year, we’re on the not-so-good end of it. It’s going to continue that way in this district, and we’re going to continue to get better.”
Greenwood has gone 8-0-1 since losing to Bowling Green on Sept. 19.
Bowling Green 5, Warren Central 0
The Purples (16-3) didn’t score until the 30th minute, but got goals from five players after that as they earned their spot in the region tournament.
“Now, it’s just about getting the win,” Bowling Green coach Craig Widener said. “We’re excited to get out of here with the win and the shutout. You have to give it to Warren Central – they had a good game plan.
“It’s really hard to play against a team that puts 10 people behind the ball for the entire game, but I was proud of the guys for sticking with it and making some adjustments.”
BG senior Johnny Parra started the scoring at the 10:19 mark of the first half with a goal on a penalty kick. He then found senior Belmir Sestic for a score with less than a minute left before halftime to make it 2-0.
The Purples added three more goals in the second half, starting with a header by junior Exodus Bargblor on an assist from junior Alex Ballard in the 53rd minute.
Sophomore Edis Sinanovic netted a shot on an assist from freshman Arif Smajlovic seven minutes later, and Smajlovic capped the scoring with 12 minutes remaining on a look from senior Duncan Paul.
Bowling Green outshot Warren Central 33-3. WCHS senior goalkeeper Carlos Vasquez recorded 12 saves. The Dragons’ season ended with a record of 8-12 in coach A.J. Ray’s first year at the helm.
The Purples defeated their next opponent, Greenwood, by scores of 1-0 and 3-1 in the regular season.
“We’ve got one of the toughest districts to win,” Widener said. “We’re most excited about the fact that we gave ourselves another week to play. That was the goal all day.”