The twists and turns of Tuesday's Southern California Regional quarterfinals playoff match between visiting No. 7-seeded Pasadena City College and undefeated and No. 2 seed Golden West made this "one for the ages" as TV broadcaster Al Michaels would say.
The Lancers (12-4-6) led 1-0, then had an epic collapse, allowing three goals in a span of three minutes. But down two goals and egos bruised as well on foreign Rustlers' soil, PCC roared back and eventually tied it in the 89th minute on Manuel Chavez's free kick goal. Then, with one minute left in stoppage time, Sameen Ibrahim headed in a long free kick from Alexander Hernander from beyond midfield to give PCC a stunning 4-3 victory. Ibrahim didn't enter the game until six minutes remaining in just one of many genius moves by first-year PCC head coach Henry Cabral.
Golden West, led by Anthony Saldana with two goals and an assist, lost for the first time in 2016 and had its season abruptly end at 14-1-7.
"We had a breakdown, and then it was my job to fix things," Cabral said. "We decided to go with three forwards because we were down two goals and I also moved up my best defender Jesus Garcia to the middle. We did what we are good at. We didn't let anything faze us. Manuel is a clutch player and he made a goal on really what could have been our last opportunity. The Sarmeen goal was a Hail Mary. We just sent the ball in and hoped for the best and Sarmeen connected."
Ibrahim had his back to the goal and just bended the long drive by Hernandez enough to cause enough redirect to fool Golden West goalie Josue Catarino.
The Lancers jumped ahead 1-0 in the seventh minute when Guillermo Zetina (Blair High) lofted a 35-yard pass from the sideline that found Oscar Vanegas (Pasadena High) wide open in the box, and the sophomore forward planted a shot past Catarino for his seventh goal of the season.
One of the key moments of the game was after Golden West made its furious scoring binge. Down 3-1, it was Vanegas who sent a lead pass to Artin Almary, the hero of PCC's first-round win over Chaffey, and he knocked in his seventh goal to cut the lead to 3-2 in the 34th minute.
One of the team's top players in the victory was midfielder Lucas Rodriguez, who frequently made plays that thwarted Golden West while making transition plays for the PCC offense. Although goaltending wasn't a real factor in the game, Lancers goalie Kristopher Guerra made a key save on a hard low shot by Saldana in the 79th minute.
Garcia turned the defensive play of the game in stoppage time as Saldana, a brilliant forward who had nine shots, got loose on a breakaway only to have his attempt drift wide thanks to Garcia's physical one-on-one play inside the goalie box.
The Lancers were outshot, 16-8, overall, but took advantage of nearly every scoring chance it received from a stingy Golden West squad.
Now, PCC will play at No. 3 seed Oxnard in the SoCal semifinals on Saturday, Nov. 26 at 2 p.m. On Sept. 28, Oxnard beat visiting PCC, 2-1. The Condors also blanked PCC, 1-0, in the 2013 regional playoffs, round 1. The Lancers are looking to advance to its first state final four since 2002, its only appearance in the CCCAA State Tournament.
[Photo--Kristopher Guerra punches the ball away with Alexander Hernandez supplying some defensive help during PCC's second-round win at Golden West College Tuesday afternoon, image by Richard Quinton.]