By Dennis Wellersports@pottsmerc.com
POTTSTOWN- With the opposing goalkeeper stopping everything in sight, all The Hill School boys soccer team could do on Tuesday afternoon was keep shooting and remain confident that a goal would come sooner or later.
That persistence finally paid off in the 57th minute when Colten Habecker directed a crossing pass from Shadrach Ekeh into the goal. Habecker scored again 11 minutes later, and that was more than enough for a 2-0 win over Friends' Central in a Pennsylvania Independent School Athletic Association Tournament quarterfinal at Harry Price Field.
The Blues (17-1), the top seed and ranked No. 1 in the nation among prep schools, will host Shipley School in a semifinal on Thursday at 4:45 p.m. Jerome Allen made 16 saves for the Phoenix (13-7-3).
"We possessed the ball 99 percent of the match,' said Hill coach Chris Drowne, whose team had a bye in the opening round. "Just had to keep knocking. When you possess the ball 99 percent of the time, you can't be held down in 80 minutes.'
Habecker said he and the rest of the team were confident that they'd break through eventually.
"Personally, I always know that I'm going to get at least one open opportunity every game,' said the senior co-captain from Douglassville. "As a team ... their goalkeeper was standing on his head. He made some amazing saves.'
But the Blues scored when Ekeh dribbled along the left end line and crossed one right into the middle to Habecker, who ticked it home.
"He (Ekeh) did all the hard work,' said Habecker.
Then Ekeh set up the second score when his shot from the left hit the post and bounced out into the middle and Habecker was right there to poke it into an empty net from a few yards out.
Up until those two tallies, the Blues had done everything but score as a couple of first-half shots sailed over the crossbar and the Phoenix keeper stopped every shot on the frame. The best opportunity for the hosts in the first half came in the final seconds on a free kick by Mark Forrest from just beyond the top of the box, but Allen made a diving save to his left to keep the game scoreless.
That was shortly after Friends' had its best scoring opportunity of the entire match when a long blast zipped just over the crossbar.
"At halftime, we knew we were playing amazing and the opportunities would come,' said Habecker. "Their goalie had an outstanding game.'
The Hill had beaten the Phoenix early in the season on the road by a 5-0 score after scoring three in the first half in a match in which the Blues had also dominated the play from beginning to end. Eighth-seeded Friends' had beaten Malvern Prep in a first-round match on Friday on the strength of a 5-4 advantage in penalty kicks after playing to a 0-0 draw through regulation play and overtime.
"Once we got out here, we knew it could be a whole different game,' said Habecker. "We have a target on our back in every game with our no. 1 ranking. We always remind ourselves to stay humble.'NOTES
The Blues launched 24 shots, 18 of them on goal, and the Phoenix failed to put any of its five shots on the goal ... Hill School had an 11-0 margin in corner kicks. ... Shipley (17-4-3) opened with a 4-0 win over Phelps School and won a 2-1 quarterfinal against George School on Saturday. ... The Blues will try to advance to the championship match for the third time in the tournament's three-year history.