Mt. San Antonio needed a little late fortune to get where it's supposed to be. College of the Canyons' upset bid was anything but a surprise. Now they'll meet for California's junior college men's title.
Mt. SAC, the top seed in Southern California, overcame West Valley, 2-1, Friday in Santa Clarita on an 88th-minute penalty kick to reach the final for the third successive season. The defending champ will take on host Canyons, a 3-0 winner over Fresno City College -- Northern California's top team -- in Sunday morning's championship game.
MOUNTIES RALLY: Luis Fuentes (Azusa/Sierra Vista HS) set up the equalizer and drew the penalty kick that secured the victory for the Mounties (18-1-4), who struggled to unlock West Valley's condensed defense until falling behind nearly 10 minutes into the second half.
Shaun Kaefer struck for West Valley (16-5-2), from Saratoga (near San Jose), after Tarek Morad (Chino Hills/Chino Hills HS) failed to clear a cross into Mt. SAC's box, but the Mounties took command behind central midfielder Adrian Padilla (West Covina/West Covina HS), who sprayed long, diagonal balls to Fuentes and Javier Castro (Pomona/I Poly HS and Cal Poly Pomona) to get behind the Vikings' backline.
Fuentes took one such pass from Padilla to feed Castro for a volley in the 63rd minute.
“Adrian's been the heart of of our team,” Mt. SAC coach Juan Sanchez said. “He did an awesome job, not only playing balls, but winning and recovering balls.”
With overtime looming, Fuentes ran onto a through ball into the box from Alberto Verduzco (Pomona/Garey HS), took contact from West Valley defender Cody Unger and sprawled to the turf. Referee Alex Gorin immediately pointed to the spot, and Verduzco's penalty kick clanged in off the left post.
“[Unger] just pulled me, and I felt it,” Fuentes said. “And I just threw myself on the ground.”
CANYONS ROMPS: Andres Bueno (Canyon Country/Golden Valley HS) scored one goal and set up another as Canyons (17-5-2) struck quickly in the second half en route to making Fresno City (15-5-3) its 11th straight victim.
“It's sort of been our M.O. in the postseason: We play well, but we don't take our early chances,” Cougars coach Phil Marcellin said. “We talked to them at halftime: 'Here we are again, 0-0. What do we always do?' And what we always do is pick up the tempo a little bit and try to make something special happen.”
Bueno made sure something special happened quickly. He ripped a stunning volley into the lower left corner just 2½ minutes into the half, then set up Rafael Fuentes (Canyon Country/Golden Valley HS) with a through ball 10 minutes later. Sebastian Toro (Granada Hills/Kennedy HS) netted the third in the 74th minute.