Apr. 15—HIGH POINT — Given a chance to fire away, Mason Marcey shot High Point University into the championship game of the Big South tournament.
With his first shot from just outside the box blocked, Marcey lifted a shot high over UNC Asheville’s leaping keeper Leon Musial and netted a golden goal 88 seconds into the first overtime that gave the top-seeded Panthers a hard-fought 1-0 victory in a Big South semifinal match Wednesday at Vert Stadium.
“It was decent,” Marcey said. “They were packing it back and the ball popped out at the top of the 18. I hadn’t had a lot of space all night, so I thought I might as well shoot it. I got a little fortunate but it went in.”
The Panthers (11-1-0) will face No. 3 seed USC Upstate in the championship match on Saturday, also at Vert Stadium. Upstate upset No. 2 Campbell on penalty kicks. UNCA finishes 3-5-1.
“The thing about our performance tonight is we kept going and didn’t get frustrated,” HPU coach Zach Haines said. “We had a lot of chances. It didn’t come for us, didn’t come for us and then it did.”
Marcey got his opportunity to score after fielding a ball sent in by Nick Phipps from near the right sideline. Marcey, who played at Valparaiso and Radford, said it was the first he was part of a playoff victory. He estimated that he had about two yards of clearance when he shot and that he didn’t see the ball go in the net.
After the ball sailed over his head, Musial remained on the ground visibly emotional for several minutes.
Haines said the winning play is not something the Panthers practice.
“It just happened,” Haines said. “It happened from having the right mentality to start the overtime. We knew they were tired and had put a lot into it defensively, so we needed a good start to the overtime, get the ball in the final third and create chances. It was a mentality piece.”
The match was much different than the meeting between HPU and UNCA last week, which the Panthers dominated in winning 5-1.
This time, neither team generated much offense in the first half as the Panthers mustered a 4-1 advantage in shots. HPU did not have a shot on goal until FInn McRobb launched a header off a corner kick from Marcey.
The Panthers picked up their offense form there. They also missed on opportunities in the 65th, 77th and 82nd minutes; and then were unsuccessful on a flurry of shots in the last three minutes.
HPU goalie Holden Trent made three saves, including two in the 56th and 57th minutes. Musial also finished with three saves.
The Panthers finished with a 16-4 advantage in shots.
“UNCA came in and knew what they had to do,” Haines said. “They stuck to their game plan and stayed organized and defended. It was different than last week that we didn’t score as many goals, but we felt we were in control. It was just a different score line.”