PUYALLUP — Bonney Lake High School’s early lead in the Class 3A state semifinal soccer game was in jeopardy.
Hanford was pushing hard to get the equalizer, but the Panthers regained control with a timely second-half goal by Brody Fitzsimmons and went on to win 3-1 on Friday afternoon at Sparks Stadium.
Bonney Lake (18-4) will play Shorecrest (16-3), a 3-2 winner over Bainbridge, in today’s championship game at 2 p.m.
The Panthers led 1-0, thanks to an early goal by Tyler John, who scored from about 15 yards out on a free kick.
That’s how the score remained until the 41st minute.
Colton Tracy floated a pass across the middle for Fitzsimmons, who calmly deposited it in the right corner of the goal for an easy score and a more comfortable 2-0 lead.
“At halftime we needed to come out and put a better performance in the first 20 minutes,” Bonney Lake coach Luke Helling-Christy said. “We got it in the first couple minutes.”
Hanford (14-7) fought back, scoring in the 57th minute when Kelly Smith headed in a shot off a corner kick, somersaulting over his defender’s back in the process.
“We’re more of a defensive team, so it’s unfortunate that we got scored on so early because it kind of changes our game plan,” Hanford coach Mike Pardini said.
“So we had to push and change things, and obviously the second goal made a big difference.”
When it looked like Hanford was starting to make a final push, the Panthers struck back in the 76th minute.
Suwilanji Silozi, the SPSL 3A’s offensive MVP, centered a pass on a breakaway for Fitzsimmons, who was trailing the play. Goalkeeper Jacob Thiel broke on the ball, but Fitzsimmons beat him to it and scored to push the lead to 3-1.
Bonney Lake stymied the Falcons’ offense all afternoon, leaving few good looks at the goal.
“We stuck to our assignments defensively,” Helling-Christy said.
“They weren’t really able to break us down. The only way they looked dangerous was on set pieces, which is what they scored on in the corner.”
“The chances were there, regardless of the (number) shots,” Pardini added. “At the end of the day, if you don’t shoot, you don’t score.”