PASADENA — The fate of the Flintridge Prep boys' soccer team was already settled, but the Rebels had a chance to spoil the party and Prep League title dreams of Pasadena Poly Wednesday.
The Panthers came into the game in first place in the league standings and a win would at worst clinch them a share of the title with Chadwick, but a loss or tie would complicate matters.
Two defensive miscues committed deep in the Rebels' end wound up costing them dearly, as Poly pulled out a 3-1 victory and at least a share of league on its senior day at Babcock Field.
It was a much different result from the team's first meeting, when Prep defeated Poly at home, 2-0, on Jan. 17.
"I think we just did a better job of doing what we wanted to do," Poly Coach Doug Jolly said. "In both games we had a couple of letdowns they took advantage of them at their place and not here, and we finished here, we didn't score at their place."
Prep Coach Mathew Bowden, whose team finished tied for third in league, said the game was "well contested and well fought" again, but knew those two defensive mistakes were costly.
"That's the beauty of the game, things happen and you can't blame anyone or anything or any situation, it plays out over 80 minutes," Bowden said. "If there's a blemish, we'll take it as a team and move forward."
Brad Olson put the Panthers (11-5-2, 6-1 in league) out in front in the 55th minute, 2-1, when he scored on a long shot. Olson's goal came after a series of Poly shots, sparked by a deep throw-in that was sent out of Prep's box to the Panthers' JP Olinski, who lobbed a shot that bounced off the top crossbar and in front of the Rebels goalie before being headed back to him by another Panther.
Prep's goalie came out of the goal and threw the ball out, assuming the danger was over, but it went to Olson who fired a shot back on frame that just rolled past the keeper.
The Rebels (7-6-4, 4-4) mounted an attack in the last 10 minutes, getting two quality scoring chances off a free kick and corner kick. The corner, which came in the 75th minute, nearly tied the game back up at 2 as the corner from Prep's Manny Perez found the Rebels' Chris Wirthlin, who headed a shot at the near post but Poly's Hunter Palmentiero was right there and he kicked it away to safety.
"I was pretty surprised because you can be on the post all the time and never have it come to you," Palmentiero said. "I've been playing varsity for three years and never had it happened, but I am glad I was there."
Nerves turned to elation three minutes later, as Panthers sophomore Ali Kamal scored his second goal of the contest to put the game out of doubt. Kamal took a pass from Benoy Menon and worked his around a Prep defender and into the right side of the Rebels' box before firing a shot across his body into the bottom left corner to cap the scoring at 3-1.
"I can't explain in words how great that was," Kamal said.
Jolly couldn't have been happier.
"The game was definitely back and forth at that point," Jolly said. "For him to play with that poise and composure is just what he does.
"It was a good finish. We work hard on finishing low to the far post and he did that well, so he knows I am going to say something good about that [in the team meeting]."
Poly struck first Wednesday as a clearance attempt by a Prep defender, right in front of the Rebels' box, went right into Kamal, who controlled the ball off his body, into the box and buried a shot low and left for a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute.
Prep evened the score 10 minutes later after earning a penalty kick when Bryce Delgado was knocked down in the Panthers box. The Rebels' Manny Perez lobbed a shot into the right of the goal to tie the score at 1.