Morton advances past Benet in PKs
Morton goalkeeper Daniel Martinez watched Benet's final penalty kick sail over the crossbar and thrust his arms into the air.
Moments later, the senior was mobbed by his teammates as they celebrated a thrilling shootout victory over Benet in the Class 3A Morton sectional final.
After regulation time and overtime finished 0-0, the top-seeded Mustangs won the shootout 4-3 to clinch their 12th sectional championship, seven of which have come in the past 10 seasons. They advance to Tuesday's Lewis University supersectional, where they will play the winner of Saturday's Plainfield North sectional final between Naperville North and Naperville Central.
"I'm a senior," Martinez said. "It's our last ride.
"We want to make our 2019 brothers proud. They came so close, they lost the (state) final. We want to win it not just for them but for us."
The Mustangs (20-1-3) might not have won if not for Martinez, who shifted the momentum when he dove to his right to stop Benet star T.J. McVey in the third round through the shootout.
That got Morton even after Benet junior goalkeeper Evan Lucas had given the second-seeded Redwings (15-6-1) an early advantage by stopping Morton's first shooter, Daniel Diaz.
The seeds of Martinez's denial of McVey were planted on Tuesday. McVey scored on a penalty kick in the second half and also converted Benet's final penalty kick in a 3-2 shootout win over Lyons.
Martinez watched that match with Morton coach Jim Bageanis.
"Coach helped me out, saying a lot of them like to shoot to my right," Martinez said. "I took that into consideration.
"The first two penalties were to the right and the first one I almost got a tip to it."
Martinez got to McVey's attempt, which kept the shootout score tied at 2-2 after three rounds. After Morton's Eddie Barraza and Benet's Nick Roe converted in the fourth round, Morton star Giovanni Alvarez scored to start the fifth round.
Benet's Andy Nash then missed high, ending Benet's attempt to win its first Class 3A sectional title.
The Redwings, who moved up to 3A after winning the Class 2A title in 2019, would not have been in the shootout if not for Lucas, who made three outstanding saves in the first half, twice stopping Diaz on long free kicks and diving to deflect a 22-yard shot from Luis Gonzalez.
"The goalkeeper really saved them," Martinez said. "If it wasn't for him, we would have blown the game out 3-0 or 4-0.
"The goalkeeper played a great game. We just came in at the right moments."
After being dominated in the first half, Benet played better in the second half with the wind at its backs but could not capitalize.
Each team had one great chance in the overtime. Benet's Jared Plummer sent a 32-yard kick just high in the first overtime, while Alvarez fired a 42-yard shot off the crossbar in the second extra session.
"For all the chances we had tonight, a lot of teams would be frustrated and be packing it in and saying this is not our night," Morton coach Jim Bageanis said. "But (the Mustangs) kept battling all night long.
"No matter who won that game today, you can't walk away disappointed. That was an awesome high school soccer match.
"Both teams battled, and Danny came up big in the PKs and that was awesome."
Benet coach Sean Wesley was happy with his team's effort.
"If you tell me at the beginning of the year that we're going to play Morton at Morton for a (sectional title) and we're going to hold them and go to penalties, I'd love that," Wesley said.
"I couldn't be more proud to be here with the group. It's what we wanted."