The top-seeded South Warren boys’ soccer team survived and advanced, outlasting Bowling Green 2-1 in double overtime in Tuesday’s District 14 Tournament at South Warren High School.
Emir Ibreljic’s goal in the 88th minute was the difference as South Warren (17-2-2) advanced to Wednesday’s District 14 championship and earned a spot in next week’s Region 4 Tournament.
“We knew going in that Bowling Green was going to be well-coached, they were going to be well-organized and work extremely hard,” South Warren coach Tom Alexander said. “That’s exactly what they did.
“At this point of the season you need to be a little lucky and I think we had a little bit of luck on our side today. I am just excited to be with these guys a little longer and excited to keep this going.”
Bowling Green (7-13-1) entered Tuesday’s game looking to upset the top seed for a second straight year and had confidence with a 2-0 win in the previous meeting this season – the Spartans’ only loss to a region opponent this season.
The Purples battled South Warren to a scoreless draw in the first half and were still locked in a tie until the 66th minute when Ibreljic’s pass to Luie Kogetsu gave the Spartans a 1-0 lead.
Bowling Green answered three minutes later on a goal by Naid Gagulic.
The Purples had the best chance to break the tie, with Byamungu Amisi’s apparent go-ahead goal in the 78th minute waved off due to an offsides call.
Bowling Green went a man down early in the first overtime when Kiza Muliki was issued a red card, but it didn’t keep the Purples from pressing the issue – with BG getting good looks late in the first overtime and early in the second overtime.
The Purples had one more chance in the 88th minute when Gagulic’s shot bounced off South Warren goalkeeper Chas Cross before Cross was able to recover and get control of the ball.
On the ensuing play up field, Ibreljic was sprinting toward the loose ball with BG’s keeper Amran Linares coming up from the net to try and get control of the ball. The players made contact with Linares falling to the ground, allowing Ibreljic to take possession and fire the game-winning shot.
“We keep talking about making sure you are following everything and getting on the end of things,” Alexander said. “I thought Emir followed the play up well and he made a great finish. He knew he had to hit that first time, because if he didn’t hit it that first time then we don’t have that goal. It was an absolute fantastic strike from Emir.”
Ibreljic said he was happy to do his part to secure the win.
“It was a really competitive game, but we played our best,” Ibreljic said. “Bowling Green is a tough team. It just all came together and we got the win.”
South Warren outshot Bowling Green 22-17, although both teams finished with eight shots on goal. Cross had seven saves for South Warren, while Linares had six for Bowling Green.
“That’s twice in three years we’ve lost with our goalkeeper lying on the field,” BG coach Scott Gural said. “It’s an unfortunate way to have the season end, but it’s not like there is a good way to have your season end. Every team in the state except one is going to face it in some way, shape or form. It’s unfortunate that ours ended tonight.”
South Warren will now face Warren Central, a 3-0 winner over Greenwood on Tuesday, in Wednesday’s District 14 championship game at 6 p.m. at South Warren.
“A quick turnaround is never ideal, but I think we will be OK,” Alexander said. “We have a deep bench and I think we will have some more people playing a little more tomorrow, too.”