Bowling Green’s girls’ soccer team simply wouldn’t be shaken Tuesday night.

The Lady Purples saw a first-half deficit grow to three goals early in the second half against South Warren in the District 14 Tournament semifinals at Drakes Creek Middle School, a daunting margin for any team to overcome.

In the final 11 minutes, Bowling Green went to work to pull off a stunning rally. The Lady Purples scored the game’s final four goals to pull out a 4-3 victory and keep their season alive, earning a spot in next week’s Region 4 Tournament and a chance to face top-seeded Greenwood in Wednesday’s District 14 Tournament championship.

“Yeah, I was getting a little worried,” Lady Purples coach Lisa Correa said. “We put ourselves in a big hole. South Warren played well. We made a few mistakes and they made us pay. To be down three with 11 left, it’s kind of hard to dig out of that.”

Bowling Green (8-9) had nothing to show for numerous opportunities to score for most of the night against the Spartans, who got stellar play from junior goalkeeper Therese Bohnlein.

The momentum shifted when third seed South Warren (10-5-1) got called for a handball, setting up a penalty kick for the Lady Purples’ Emma Kate Widener. Her resulting goal got Bowling Green on the scoreboard with 11:06 to play.

The Lady Purples struck again with 4:38 to play on a goal by Catherine Walker to pull within 3-2.

Then with 2:35 to play, Bowling Green finally cashed in on a corner kick after coming up empty on 15 previous tries. Junior Erica Smith flashed into the box and headed the ball past Bohnlein for the tying score.

“No one let their heads down at all,” Smith said. “We have a lot of faith in this team and we have a really special bond, so I think that really held our motivation up and kept our spirits up. We just kept going at it. We weren’t going to stop.”

Still in attack mode, Bowling Green wouldn’t settle for overtime. With 55 seconds to go, Mills gathered in a through ball in the penalty box and snapped off a shot that sailed into the upper corner to complete an improbable comeback.

The goal was just the second of the season for Mills.

“Yeah, that was a really big one,” Mills said.

Normally a defender, scoring chances are few for Mills. But considering the deficit Bowling Green was facing in the second half, Correa wisely chose to push all her players forward to create extra scoring chances.

“She’s one of those kids that makes things happen,” Correa said. “She just gets in there and works for you and works for her team. She’s so selfless. She’s the type of player that every coach wants to have.”

The Spartans appeared in prime position to earn their first-ever win over Bowling Green through much of the night. South Warren struck with a counterattack in the game’s sixth minute as senior midfielder Sofia Hasani raced to a through ball in the box and poked a shot past Lady Purples goalkeeper Caroline Miller for the game’s first score.

Hasani struck again with eight minutes to go in the half, slipping her defender in the box before spinning toward the goal to snap off a shot that found the upper left corner of the net.

“She is hard to handle,” Correa said of Hasani. “She’s the one that you have got to have pressure on her and someone covering for her.”

The Spartans weren’t content to sit on that two-goal lead and kept pressing forward in the second half. That strategy paid off in the 44th minute when South Warren’s Kailee Nobles punched in another goal to put her team up 3-0.

“We didn’t just want to sit in with a 2-0 lead,” Spartans coach Andrew Hutto said. “Like we told the girls at the half, that’s the most dangerous lead in soccer. So we were really trying to stay aggressive and stay on the attack. The PK and then another goal they scored right after that really turned the tide and gave them the boost they needed to claw their way back.”

It was a rough result for the Spartans, who got a 14-save outing from Bohnlein.

“The girls executed our game plan to perfection,” Hutto said. “We were looking to sit in and then counter, and that worked for us, especially in the first half and then early in the second half. We knew Bowling Green would respond and they threw everything they had at us at the end. We just couldn’t hold on.”{&end}

– Follow sports editor Jeff Nations on Twitter @Jeff_NationsBG or visit bgdailynews.com.

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