With the end of regulation in sight, Marian Catholic’s Carlo Falcioni was looking to “pick up scraps” near the goal.
He ended up with much more than that.
Falcioni scored the match-winning goal with two minutes remaining as Marian defeated Crete-Monee 1-0 in a Class 2A Lincoln-Way West Sectional semifinal on Tuesday.
The score came immediately after dynamic forward Alec Guarino fired a shot off the crossbar from deep. Falcioni, running full speed to pick up the rebound, buried his strike into the net.
“Our coach (Nasser Shahtaji) always preaches three bodies at the back of the net every time we shoot,” Falcioni said. “I ended up being one of those bodies.”
Marian (17-7-2) is now set to face reigning state champion Washington (10-8-4) at 11 a.m. Saturday for the sectional title.
Crete-Monee (14-8-2) received a formidable effort from goalkeeper Carlos Soto, who defended six second-half corner kicks and nine shots on goal before Falcioni’s shot rocketed past him.
“Give credit to their goalkeeper,” Shahtaji said. “He made some fantastic saves. We just made it more difficult for ourselves by not being as precise and finishing.”
Marian controlled most of the action, but Crete-Monee stayed resilient. The Warriors received three shots on goal from Brendan Sanders and another two from Fernando Aguirre.
“Our keeper kept us in it,” Crete-Monee head coach Neil Hodge said. “He had his game of the season.
“Their No. 10 (Guarino) is a strong player up front. We tried to deploy the same strategy as last game and use one of our fastest player on him. It was just an unlucky bounce at the end.”
Guarino has 33 goals and 11 assists on the season. He fired four shots on goal Tuesday night and was a consistent thorn in Crete’s side.
“I’m not sure what the problem was with finishing,” Guarino said. “We had a few chances we usually score on, but all that matters is winning.”
Washington 2, Lemont 1
In the opening sectional semifinal at Lincoln-Way West, Washington used goals from Josue Navarro and Joshua Vargas — along with some stellar defense — to defeat Lemont 2-1 in a clash of perennial powers.
Navarro broke open the scoring with a header three minutes into the second half. Vargas scored with three minutes remaining for a 2-0 lead.
Lemont’s John Bermele found the back of the net nine minutes after Washington’s first goal, but the score was wiped away on a foul. Tedor Trifunovski was then ejected on a hard red card and Lemont had to play down a man the rest of the match.
“They were able to dictate the pace of the game,” Lemont coach Rick Prangen said. “Ironically, I thought once we had the red card, we started playing with more urgency and pressed a little bit more.”
Lemont (17-3-4) received a set-piece goal from Eric Whatley, who fired a laser from 25 yards out to cut the Indians’ deficit in half with two minutes remaining.