PASADENA — The third game of the Prep League season sure felt a lot more like a playoff game when the Pasadena Poly and Flintridge Prep girls' soccer teams met to determine who would shift into the driver's seat in league.
Both teams came into Wednesday sporting spotless league records, but in the end, the Panthers faithful rushed Poly's Babcock Field after its squad overcame a goal deficit in the last 18 minutes to pull off a 3-2 victory on the strength of a Noel Askins game-winner.
"There's no regrets or anything, that's just how this game ends," Prep Coach Esteban Chavez said. "There was no domination. It was a good-fought battle but you're expected to win when you're up 2-1 with six minutes to go."
It looked like Prep's Kaelin King had scored the game's biggest goal when she fired a shot across her body from about 25 yards out and just over Poly's keeper in the 62nd minute to give the Rebels (8-2-1, 2-1 in league) a 2-1 lead.
Being dealt a late deficit is a position Poly hadn't been put in yet this year Poly Coach Pat Gray said.
"This was good for us because we haven't been tested a lot this year," Gray said. "They put us under a tremendous amount of pressure. ...We had to learn from that."
The Panthers (12-1-0, 3-0 in league) still had some magic in store.
Poly's Sarah Mendenhall switched up the momentum when she was scored on a rocket shot in the 74th minute. It came after a corner kick that pinballed side-to-side in the box and bounced right to Mendenhall on the right side. She buried a shot in the bottom left corner to tie the game at 2.
The Panthers weren't content with a tie. Two minutes later, Askins provided the difference maker with a breakaway goal. Askins slipped past Prep's back line and Rebels goalie Casey Cousineau ran out to her and dove to grab the ball, but Askins hit a shot that just went off Cousineau and barely crossed the goal line to deliver the win.
Askins said she knew it was "now or never" when she got the ball on the break with four minute to go.
"I am just so proud of my team for stepping up and coming back in the last 10 minutes," she said. "That's the best high school game I have ever played in my life. There was so much energy from both sides."
Chavez said Poly's "big players just stepped up in big moments."
"I don't blame my team," he said. "We didn't fall asleep or take it easy, it was just two really good goals."
The game was a wild ride of momentum the entire way through. Poly first got on the board in the 29th minute on a 30-yard free kick goal from Mendenhall.
Prep's Arielle Baptiste provided the equalizer nine minutes later. The goal came on a free kick sent to Baptiste in the box from Cousineau.
Baptiste charged toward the goal and Poly's goalie went out to close down the shot, but was beat by a shot to the bottom left corner from Baptiste that knotted the game at 1.
Cousineau said her team got tired and may have let up in the end.
"We started to feel like we won already and I think that kind of got us," she said. "We'll get them next time, though."
The next Prep-Poly showdown is scheduled for Feb. 1 at Flintridge Prep at 3:30 p.m.