SSC eliminated by Tawas
TAWAS — Standish-Sterling struck first. But when Tawas Area struck back the Panthers didn't have an answer, and the Braves held off the stubborn Panthers 4-1 in Monday's district tournament opener at Tawas Area.
The victory sends the Braves (15-3-2) to Wednesday's district semifinal against Houghton Lake, which tripped up Oscoda 4-3, and ends SSC's season at 6-11-1.
"I was a little nervous (before the game)," said Tawas coach Ken Cook. "We (beat) them 2-1 last week, so I knew the potential was there for an upset.
"We didn't step it up in the first half, and after they scored first, I was even more nervous."
Cook had good reason, the way most of the first half played out. The Panthers matched the Braves shot for shot and push for push, nearly holding even with the Braves on total shots in the first half.
A spectacular goal in the game's first 12 minutes put SSC on top. Shay Irving launched a waist-high cross deep into the goal box, and Tanner Trombley launched himself horizontal to the turf and headed it from point-blank range past well-positioned Tawas goalkeeper Nick Hulea, who had eight saves, for a 1-0 Panther lead.
"We played the first half real good," said SSC coach Jerry Sergeant. "We did a good job of playing Tawas tight all year long. In the second half, we just gave them way too many opportunities.
"Tawas did a good job of making the adjustments they needed to on our forwards. What they did was proper, and their kids did a good job of it."
Tawas tied it up in the 18th minute when Talal Abdallah fed Cody Jordan with a through pass that set up Jordan's breakaway goal past SSC keeper Cody Bechtel (14 saves).
Abdallah himself scored the Braves' tie-breaking and insurance goals. He one-touched in Aran Freel's pass in the sixth minute of the second half to make it 2-1, then headed in D.J. Decker's cross in the 32nd minute for a 3-1 lead.
Decker knocked in the final goal off Abdallah's corner kick with three minutes left.
The Braves also shut down the Panthers' attack in the second half, out-shooting SSC 14-5 in the second half after holding a 14-10 edge after 40 minutes.
"We changed our alignment and did a much better job of winning the ball in the second half," Cook said. "But I didn't feel real comfortable until we got that third goal."
Sergeant had hoped the Panthers would have been able to sustain what they had going in the opening 40 minutes, but saw that window of opportunity slammed shut after the break.
"I thought I saw a little fear in their eyes in the first half," Sergeant said. "I didn't see any fear at all in the second half."