A defensive collapse by Naperville Central in the second half allowed Edwardsville to defeat the Redhawks 3-1 in the Class 3A boys soccer semifinal on a windy Friday night in Hoffman Estates.
"Unfortunately there is only one good way to end a season," said Redhawks coach Troy Adams. "Clearly it wasn't the result we wanted and not the one we prepared for. You can play a good game of soccer, work your tail off and catch some bad breaks."
Both teams have played strong defensively in the playoffs. The Tigers had four shutouts and the Redhawks had three in the playoffs coming into the game. The Redhawks were on the attack early and struck first on a 20-yarder by Devon Amoo-Mensah.
Amoo-Mensah's shot was redirected off Tigers defender Tommy Giacobbe past goalkeeper Brendan Heaton, who was leaning the wrong way. The Redhawks took a 1-0 lead into the half.
"We had the wind in the first half," Amoo-Mensah said. "We wanted to get some shots going. I took the shot and got a lucky bounce and it went in."
Tigers coach Mark Heiderscheid told his team to go into the second half and "just score."
The Tigers came out and scored twice in the first five minutes of the second half to turn the game around. Liam Burke sent a 48-yard free kick into the net to tie the game, and Sulemon Bazai tapped in the second goal off a corner kick by Brent Heinlein to give the Tigers a 2-1 just 90 seconds later.
"We said don't panic," Heiderscheid said. "We have 40 minutes to score a goal. It was nice to score a goal early. Once you score one goal, the momentum really shifts. Once you score the second then you know it hurts them emotionally and psychologically."
Bazai scored his second goal five minutes later. A miscommunication between Redhawks goalkeeper Joe Kallikaden and the defense gave Bazai an open net to tap the ball into the net to seal the win.
The Redhawks (18-3-2) had chances throughout the game but couldn't finish.
"We have such a talented group of players," said Redhawks forward Jay Tegge. "We were able to trust each other with the ball. We pass it left, right, forward back you can count on that player to do a good job with it. ... We're extremely proud of our team."
The Redhawks will play Lake Park for third place at 5 p.m. Saturday at Hoffman Estates High School. Edwardsville will play Wheeling in the final.