WALNUT - Hartnell College erupted for a 4-1 win over El Camino College while host Mt. San Antonio College held off a late rally from American River in a 2-1 win as the top seeds from both the NorCal and SoCal regions set the table for their state championship battle on Sunday afternoon with semifinal wins on Friday night at the CCCAA Men's Soccer Championship.
Hartnell (20-1-3) will be looking for its second CCCAA title while Mt. San Antonio will be looking for its sixth. All of the Mounties previous championships have come since 2009, with the most recent in 2016. They're returning to the championship game for the second consecutive time after falling to Fresno City in the last CCCAA tournament final in 2019. Hartnell won its previous championship in 2013.
The Panthers and Mounties will kick off at 2 p.m. following the women's championship between Hartnell and Cypress at 10 a.m. The game will be broadcast by BAOSN and can be accessed through the Tournament Headquarters website here.
SEMIFINAL: (1N) Hartnell 4, (2S) El Camino 1
Hartnell got goals from four different players, with a pair coming in each half, as the Panthers won their second game in a row and ran their unbeaten streak to 16 games.
Javier Espinal-Perez and Marco Antonio Ruiz each tallied scores in the first 20 minutes to put Hartnell in front quickly, 2-0, while Ramiro Sanchez and Anthony Rangel found the back of the next in the second half. Andy Cabrera scored in the 27th minute for El Camino, providing the Warriors their lone goal.
Hartnell outshot Mt. San Antonio, 20-18, including a 7-5 advantage in shots on goal. It was Espinal-Perez, however, he tallied one of the more important shots of the night, scoring on a header off a corner kick by Isaac Lomeli Zuniga in the 11th minute to not only get the first score of the game but set the tone for the next several minutes.
(Photo by Richard Quinton)
Less than 10 minutes later, the Panthers would strike again, this time off the foot of Marco Antonio Ruiz whose free kick hit the first post and bounced in. But any thought that the Panthers were going to run away with it at the point was negated just seven minutes later when Cabrera's 27th-minute score off an assist from Ricardo Martin made it 2-1.
The teams then held each other scoreless over the next 45 minutes before Sanchez's unassisted shot off a turnover slid under the goalkeeper in the 72nd minute for a 3-1 Hartnell lead. Rangel then wrangled a loose ball off a rebound in the 81st minute to complete the four-goal outburst by the Panthers.
Luis Garibay had five saves for Hartnell while Santiago Cervantes had seven for Hartnell.
SEMIFINAL: (1S) Mt. San Antonio 2, (2N) American River 1
American River earned its spot in the state championship tournament after beginning the postseason as the 10th seed in the NorCal Regional but played nothing like an underdog against Mt. San Antonio, the top seed in the SoCal Regional.
Even after falling behind 2-0 late in the game, the Beavers rallied to within a goal and frantically tried to get another shot on goal but relentless defensive pressure from the Mounties was able to keep the threat from leading to overtime as Mt. San Antonio advanced.
Neither team could find a goal for the first 23 minutes and it was the Mounties who were the only ones who could manage any shots (5) during that span before Paul Iniguez took an assist from Matt Palos to make it 1-0 in the first half.
Great defense from both teams led to just a single shot from each side over the next 22 minutes. In fact, there were not shots registered by either team during the last 12-1/2 minutes prior to intermission.
Defensive was the name of the game for much of the second half as both teams dug in and kept many shots from being taken. However, that changed in the 84th minute when Travis Piceno slid a ball from the right side to open space right in front of the goal where Edward Castro punched it in to increase the Mounties' lead to 2-0.
But anyone that thought that would seal the deal was mistaken because the second of two corner kicks from American River over the next two minutes resulted in a goal when Kyle Prusia's attempt was headed in by Jason Kravchuk to slice the lead in half to 2-1.
American River rushed the ball upfield as much as possible in the exciting few minutes but Mt. San Antonio was able to turn away most of threats before they amounted to a score and the Mounties punched their ticket to the championship game once again.
Mt. San Antonio outshot American River 11-5 while Gerardo Perez-Plata had four saves for American River.