By John Lachmann
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Despite dominating for the first 40 minutes, Boone County headed into halftime down a goal on Saturday.
But the Rebels scored twice in a 10-minute span midway through the second half to beat North Hardin, 2-1 in a state quarterfinal at Henry Clay.
Boone County advances to the state semifinals for the first time in school history and will play Louisville St. Xavier at 6 p.m. at Lexington Paul Dunbar on Thursday.
“I just told them to get as many chances as they could in the second half,” Boone County coach Nathan Browning said. “I said hit them hard and hit them early because you’ve got the wind behind you and you’re going to be able to get a little more momentum on your shots this half.”
The Rebels had to come from behind in their district championship game, when they scored with 15 minutes left to tie Ryle and eventually won in a shootout. They had shut out their other five postseason opponents entering Saturday.
Boone County allowed its first goal since that win over the Raiders five games ago with 18.5 seconds remaining in the first half. Senior midfielder Elijah Linscott got behind the defense and popped a shot over senior Zach Mimms off a throw-in by senior midfielder Devin Sowells.
“Our players were a little down because it happened right before the half, obviously,” Browning said. “But I just told them we dominated the whole first half, we were going against the wind…we were in their end probably 85 or 90 percent of the first half.”
Trojans senior Tyler Malcolm had to make six saves in the first half, including a stop off a blast by sophomore forward Haven Borkowski five minutes before halftime. Rebels junior midfielder Evan O’Hara also rang a shot off the post in the fifth minute.
But Boone County’s pressure finally paid dividends in the 59th minute when senior midfielder Matt Melzer fed sophomore forward Brett Mayberry, who headed the ball off the post and in to tie the score.
With 12:23 remaining, Rebels senior midfielder Rian Ait Salih’s crossing pass from the right side of the field found O’Hara, who headed the ball down and into the net for the go-ahead goal.
“I wouldn’t have scored if it wasn’t for that cross,” said O’Hara, who leads the team with 24 tallies this season. “It went right to my head and all I had to do was hit it.”
North Hardin was unable to generate a quality scoring chance in the remaining minutes. The Rebels forced Malcolm to make three more saves in that span and 11 in the match.
Boone County extended its unbeaten streak to 18 matches (15-0-3). North Hardin was the last team to beat the Rebels when the Trojans won, 2-1 in the John Hardin Bulldog Challenge on Sept. 7.
Boone County will play defending state champion Louisville St. Xavier in a state semifinal at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at Lexington Paul Dunbar.
The Tigers beat Corbin, 7-0 in their quarterfinal on Saturday, and have outscored their opponents, 30-0 in their seven postseason matches.
HALFTIME: North Hardin, 1-0. GOALS: BC—Mayberry, O’Hara. NH—E. Linscott. RECORDS: Boone County 19-3-3, North Hardin 19-6.
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