HOLLIDAYSBURG - Bishop McCort learned valuable lessons from a regular-season loss to Belleville Mennonite, and the Crimson Crushers were able to put that experience to good use in a District 6 Class A boys soccer semifinal on Wednesday night.
Nick Mastovich, Alex Conahan and Steve Ingram scored and Nick Spinelli was fantastic in goal as Bishop McCort beat Belleville Mennonite 3-0 to return to the district title game.
"They showed us some stuff. They showed us a lot of heart," Bishop McCort coach Ron Spinelli said of the Thunder's 4-2 victory at Point Stadium last month. "We made some adjustments. We saw what they had."
Sentinel photo by TAMI KNOPSNYDER
Belleville Mennonite’s Sam Morgan, right, and Bishop McCort’s Steve Ingram battle for the ball during the first round of the District 6 Class A boys soccer tournament Wednesday in Hollidaysburg.
It paid big dividends, as the Crimson Crushers (10-9) will get a chance to defend their District 6 championship next week.
"They're still the defending champions until someone knocks them off," Belleville Mennonite coach Brian Renno said of Bishop McCort. "That's what our goal was coming in, but we didn't knock them off. They live to play another day. Congratulations to them."
Belleville had an early scoring chance, but couldn't convert and neither team was able to find the back of the net until the 33rd minute, when Mastovich scored on a volley after a cross from Conner Hagins.
The Crimson Crushers quickly added to their lead, as Ingram took a direct kick that Conahan was able to head home with a little more than two minutes left in the first half.
"That's the third year in a row we've given up one with under five minutes to go in the half to go down 2-0," Renno said. "To try to overcome a 2-0 deficit, that's tough, mentally, to overcome it."
It didn't help that Bishop McCort's defense and keeper Nick Spinelli were frustrating the Thunder at every turn.
The Crimson Crushers limited the scoring opportunities for Belleville's Andrew Miller, who has more than 100 career goals, and on the few chances that the Thunder senior got - such as his low shot in the 52nd minute - the Bishop McCort keeper was there to stop it.
"He made some really nice saves for them tonight," Renno said. "I thought their back line maintained their shape better than they did (in the previous game)."
Ingram put the final touch on the game with a beautiful curling, dipping shot from outside the 18-yard box that was just out of the reach of Belleville Mennonite keeper Sammy Kauffman.
Third-seeded Bishop McCort awaits the winner of tonight's game between No. 1 Westmont Hilltop and fourth-seeded Penns Valley. The championship will be played on Tuesday.
For Belleville Mennonite, a season that started slowly before a strong playoff push ended a bit too early for Renno and the six seniors on the squad.
"They thought this was their time to make a run. Not meant to be, I guess," he said.