MACEDONIA: As time expired, Medina students were chanting U-S-A, but give the assist to Senegal.
Junior striker Cheikh Bassel came off the bench Wednesday night to score the only goal of the match and lift Medina to a 1-0 win over Avon Lake in a Division I boys soccer regional semifinal at Nordonia’s Boliantz Stadium.
The Bees (11-1-8) advance to play Whitehouse Anthony Wayne in a regional final Saturday at noon at Sandusky High School.
Bassel, a native of the African nation Senegal, came to the United States a year ago and enrolled at Medina at the start of this school year. He wasn’t cleared to play until the midpoint of the season.
“I was kind of nervous because it’s my first goal this season,” Bassel said. “I wanted to score for the team.”
Medina coach Mark Malikowski was hoping for more offense when he inserted Bassel into the lineup.
“We needed something different up top today,” he said. “We didn’t create a ton of chances. It was just one of those situations, ‘Why not try somebody different?’?”
The goal came at 19:50 of the second half, following a long right-to-left cross off the foot of sophomore defender Jacob Shafer. Bees senior Andrew Steidl blasted a point-blank shot off Avon Lake goalkeeper Kane Adams, and Bassel popped in the rebound.
Shafer might have been the unsung hero for Medina when he headed an Avon Lake (12-5-3) shot off the end line seven minutes into the second half, keeping the score 0-0. The shot taken by senior Logan DeLong of the Shoremen came after a corner kick.
“I just did my job standing on the post, and hoped if it came to me, I’d clear it,” Shafer said.
Thanks in large part to that save, Medina senior goalkeeper Dean McNeil earned his school-record 15th shutout of the season.
“That’s been the story of our season in close, tight games,” Avon Lake coach Matt DeCapua said. “We tried to play through seams. We tried to play over the top. We tried to play it out wide. We tried to build. We had a tough time getting the ball forward.”
The Bees have yielded just six goals this season and Malikowski credits senior Ben Case, junior Connor Dease, junior Noah Hastings, injured junior Eric Vinborg and Shafer with becoming a cohesive defensive unit in front of McNeil.
The Bees were offensively challenged during the middle portion of their season, scoring three goals in 10 matches.
“It almost got to the point that it was comical,” Malikowski said.
But a 3-0 win over Archbishop Hoban in the regular-season finale got the Bees in a positive mindset for the tournament.
“It finally got the monkey off our back,” Malikowski said. “It was just such a confidence boost. I think that’s been the difference in the postseason.”
Medina has scored seven goals in four tournament games.
Although each team had three corner kicks at halftime, Medina had two legitimate scoring chances. With more than 14 minutes played, Bees senior striker Tommy Lear blasted a shot wide right from just beyond the penalty mark.
Eight minutes later, Hastings, pushing up on the left side of the field, hit a rocket off the crossbar from 20 yards out.
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