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F-M avenges losses with upset of McConnellsburg

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Fannett-Metal boys soccer coach Greg Best is known for his calm demeanor.

Best doesn't like to lose, of course, but he seemingly never gets too up or too down.

But Tuesday night, when the Tigers claimed a 3-2 victory over McConnellsburg in the District 5 Class 1A semifinals, Best went ballistic. The victory avenged a pair of double-overtime losses to the rival Spartans in the regular season and punched Fannett-Metal's first ticket to the district final since it won the title in 2011.

"As a coach, I've had it built up and felt bad for these guys all year," Best said. "Each game, I felt like we deserved a win. It just seemed unfortunate. It's also the rivalry; it's been there since I was in school, and it's definitely a huge monkey off our back to beat them this season. This game was for all the marbles, and we earned it."

After the first half, it looked it was going to be more of the same, with McConnellsburg (16-3-1) holding a 2-1 lead. But Best gave a halftime speech that must've worked. Less than five minutes into the second half, Wyatt Thorne scored to give the momentum back to the Tigers (14-6).

"They came right out of the beginning and scored, and that sent us reeling a little bit," Thorne said. "But we came back, and when we scored that one so early in the second half, it sent them reeling, and I don't think they came back from that one. They were playing our game after that."

Just 10 minutes later, Tigers' leading scorer Mikell McGee played hero, as he put one past McConnellsburg's keeper after yet another throw-in. All three of Fannett-Metal's goals were scored at the end of throw-ins.

"That was great, because we usually don't score off them," McGee said. "We usually get great opportunities, but don't finish them, so to get those tonight, that was great for us."

McConnellsburg coach Cory Houck said, "The sad part is we knew that (the throw-in) was one of the weapons that they had, and we actually spent the last two practices working on marking. We definitely didn't come through on what we practiced."

The Spartans had all the momentum, as Landon Seiders scored less than three minutes into the game. But F-M tied it up midway through the half on a goal from Dylan Seibert, who also had both second-half assists.

Gage Henry helped McConnellsburg secure the lead on a goal in which he juked and jived through a pair of F-M defenders before hitting a shot to the top left corner. But thanks to 10 saves by Tiger goalkeeper Colby Adams, the Spartans were kept off the scoreboard after that.

"I don't think we'd be where we are this season if it weren't for (Colby)," Thorne said. "He came up big in a lot of important games, and he was a lock back there tonight."

Houck said, "I feel like we've been probably one of the most consistent teams for the last four or five years, but it's the curse of this semifinal. It's not like we're getting blown out. We're right there; it's just not going our way."