Late goal keeps Falcons ticking

TORRANCE —Locked in a scoreless tie with North Torrance late in the second half, Michael Shahnazarians and the Falcons took advantage of a fortuitous break that resulted in their season staying alive.

Shahnazarians scored with 16 minutes remaining to lift visiting Crescenta Valley to a 1-0 win Wednesday afternoon in a CIF Southern Section Division IV second-round match.

Shahnazarians corralled a rebound and lined a low shot past North Torrance goalkeeper James Lisardi, who had just stopped a shot by Alex Berger.

"I read the play and the rebound came to me," Shahnazarians said. "I was kind of surprised and I was lucky that it got to me because I thought they were going to clear the ball out of their end.

"North Torrance has a very strong team and it was a tough battle that we won."

Crescenta Valley (15-2-5) will meet second-seeded El Rancho in a quarterfinal home game at 3 p.m. Friday.

The Falcons, who won the Pacific League championship for the second straight season, needed some additional breaks in the last 12 minutes to fend off the Pioneer-League champion Saxons (13-5-7).

In that stretch, Crescenta Valley goalkeeper Nick Ruiz stopped two headers by North Torrance. The Saxons' Shaun Nagano nearly tied the match in the final minute with a header. However, the ball struck the crossbar.

Ruiz said he expected a flurry of activity after the Falcons, who opened the playoffs with a 3-2 sudden-death victory against Diamond Bar on Friday, went ahead.

"It was definitely nerve-wracking," said Ruiz, who finished with five saves. "They got the ball in deep and the ball hit his head.

"I was falling back and I could see it hit the crossbar. We've been here before in close games and our defense was as strong as it could be."

Lisardi made 10 saves for the Saxons.

North Torrance had most of the quality scoring chances in the first half, including one in which Ruiz lunged to his left to punch aside a shot by Claudio Rodriguez in the 17th minute.

Crescenta Valley second-year Coach Kiel McClung said the Falcons persevered.

"We wanted to come out and make sure we did the right things," McClung said. "That was to play good defense and provide offensive opportunities.

"Michael's eyes were the size of a golf ball on that rebound.

"To win a championship, you need luck. It was on our side in the end. I'm a firm believer that if you create luck then you will find a way to win."

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