Pittsburg tried and tried in the second half to make up a 3-1 halftime deficit but never could get the bounces or the breaks to go its way during a 3-1 home loss Tuesday night to Kansas City Turner in a Class 5A Northeast Regional 3 semifinal.
“We came out flat that first half,” Pittsburg activities director Doug Hitchcock said. “We just didn’t play to our potential. We got behind early and it took us a little time to get rolling. Gosh, second half, we had shots on goal many more times than we did in the first half and we just couldn’t get anything to fall our way. We couldn’t capitalize on any mistakes they made. We were in position several times and . . . just the way that ball bounces sometimes.
“Kids played their hearts out. That was the thing we challenged them at halftime. We were down and it would have been real easy to have folded the tent and called it a season but they weren’t satisfied. They knew that the first half they didn’t play very well and they knew their potential and they knew they could play better.”
The Golden Bears of KC Turner jumped ahead 2-0 with a pair of goals from senior Gabriel Moran. Pittsburg drew its first blood on a Danilo Pinheiro goal but late in the first half (43 seconds remaining), David Jones kicked a long ball past Pittsburg goalkeeper Gershom Avalos for a 3-1 halftime lead.
In the second half, Pittsburg dominated possession with several opportunities for Pinheiro, Jose Ayala, Emmanuel Gonzalez, Sullivan Lauderdale and Moira Myers. None of them went in, even after starting KC Turner keeper Colton Russell left the match with 14:21 remaining after a multi-player pile-up in front of the goal involving Ayala, Russell and KC Turner defender Rodrigo Ruiz.
Junior defender Josh Dial may have epitomized the competitive spirit when he shouted words of encouragement late in the match: “Keep going, White. All the way until the end.”
Pittsburg finishes its season 9-7 and the players handled their fair share of adversity the final week of the season, essentially becoming their own coaches on the field.
“They’ve had a lot of adversity to overcome in just the last 4 days that Mr. Garzone (assistant principal Chris Garzone) and I have been working with them,” Hitchcock said. “There’s a lot of things they’ve stepped up and done we asked them to help us out with and they’ve been great about it. A lot of times they were forthcoming with suggestions and ideas.
“Obviously, when we haven’t been with them all season, sometimes it’s tough to finish up that way. That was a great thing they provided for us because they wanted what’s best for the program and they’ve worked way too hard to shut it down the last 4-5 days. They knew we were out here to help them out the best we could. It’s a great group of kids.”
Page 2 of 2 - Of its 22-player roster submitted for Regionals, Pittsburg featured only five seniors — Oswaldo Villela, Ian Diver, Gershom Avalos, Kaleb Konek and Tri Palmer. Several freshmen and sophomores played extensive varsity minutes.
“They’re a young team,” Hitchcock said. “They have matured. We have high expectations for them in years to come. I think there’s some players who are going to continue to develop and it’s only going to help us in the future.”
KC Turner (7-10) will face the winner of St. Thomas Aquinas (10-3-3) and Shawnee Heights (3-9-4) Thursday for a regional title and state berth.