Los Alamitos boys soccer falls to Quartz Hill in CIF-SS Division 3 final

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LANCASTER — Los Alamitos’ boys soccer team arrived Thursday at a rainy and chilly pitch, almost 100 miles from home, with the profile of an underdog.

The Griffins were in their first CIF Southern Section final since 2002, a few years before their players were born or the arrival of coach Donovan Martinez. They also were unranked in the final Division 3 poll, counting on several young players, and facing an opponent playing in its backyard.

It took Los Alamitos most of the night, but the team eventually showed the qualities that helped it beat the odds.

The Griffins just ran out of time.

Seventh-ranked Quartz Hill used its aerial attack off corner kicks to open a three-goal lead and withstood a late surge by Los Alamitos to secure a 3-2 victory in the Division 3 final at Antelope Valley College.

“We showed a little character toward the end and we did have a little bit of fight,” Martinez said. “Another five, 10 minutes, we would have put (up) a good fight. A really good fight. Toward the end, you started to see some things develop.”

Trailing 3-0, Los Alamitos sophomore forward Jack Nishimoto drew a penalty shot in the 66th minute that senior forward Demitrious Tanks converted with a right-footed strike.

Tanks, one of the team’s captains, rushed to grab the ball out of the net and the Griffins (17-7-3) kept pushing.

Los Al on the board! Drew penalty in 66th minute @ocvarsity

— Dan Albano (@ocvarsityguy) February 24, 2023

Sophomore goalie Anthony Gomez kept the Surf League champion close by making a diving save in the 84th minute and deflecting the rebound. Both shots were at close range and helped Gomez finish with nine saves.

“He does it for us,” Martinez said of Gomez, who faced a strong shot in the first half and deflected it over the crossbar.

In the 86th minute, Nishimoto capitalized by scoring on a counter by flicking a shot with his right foot over charging goalie Xander Jakeway for another goal.

“Phenomenal goal,” Martinez said.

Los Alamitos had the ball deep in Quartz Hill’s side when the final whistle blew.

“They’re a talented team,” Quartz Hill coach Casey Jenison said the Griffins. “I can see how they made it to the finals.”

Nishimoto credited captains Tanks, James Metcalfe and Derek Lund for the Griffins’ strong finish.

“Some good leadership from our captains got us back into the game,” he said. “We almost did it.”

The Royals (17-1-4), the Division 5 runner-up last season, scored off consecutive corner kicks in the first half. Defender Kwadwo Dua scored the first off a header and collected another goal off a rebound following an attempted header.

Winger Davien Karanikolas sent both corner kicks into the penalty box for Quartz Hill.

“The set pieces have been a majority of our goals,” Dua said. “We’re tall, we’re athletic.”

Forward Chisom Ene, Quartz Hill’s top goal scorer, put away on a counter in the 61st minute to extend the lead to 3-0.

Los Alamitos highlighted its playoff run by upsetting No. 4-ranked Canyon 1-0 in the quarterfinals.

“We faced some really good teams along the way and I’m proud of our boys for being successful,” Martinez said. “It’s a bitter loss but once you sit back and look at the season and what we did, it’s a huge plus.”

“It’s the collective (effort) that makes us good,” the coach added. “This (playoff) run is a little unexpected … but it was well-deserved for these kids.”

Los Alamitos’ season will continue with the CIF State SoCal Regional tournament next week,.

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