The Greencastle boys' soccer team picked up their second win in as many games Thursday night after besting visiting Lebanon 2-1 at Big Walnut Sports Park.
With soccer having been split into two separate classes (A and 2A), the preseason Class A No. 5 Tiger Cubs withstood constant pressure from the guest Tigers while getting enough chances to come away with a victory.
Lebanon constantly tried to overpower the Tiger Cubs in the middle of field, often sending balls straight through the middle in an attempt to overwhelm the hosts.
From the beginning, however, Mitchell Ball was more than up to the task, breaking up scores of Tiger attacks, calmly moving the ball into the midfield and out of harms way.
With the defense solid, the Tiger Cubs, when they got opportunities in the first half, were able to make them count.
Both Greencastle goals were the handiwork of Sonny Basham, who collected both goals in the first half.
Roughly midway through the opening stanza, Basham was sent through on goal and, with Lebanon goalkeeper Eli Pemberton charging out, hit a chip shot over the stranded keeper and comfortably into the goal area to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
About ten minutes later, Basham took a deflected ball and skipped by several Tiger defenders before rounding Pemberton and sliding the ball into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.
The Tiger Cub defense would hold off more Tiger pressure and entered halftime with the lead intact.
With conditions muggy on Thursday and a JV contest before the varsity match, Greencastle's 21 man roster was going to be in for a test in the second half as Lebanon, with a squad more than double in size than the hosts, switched players frequently and went into half number two looking to capitalize on their depth.
As the half went along, attacking chances for Greencastle soon became less and less frequent as Lebanon poured on the pressure, looking for a way back into the game.
An injury to Ball after he was tackled from behind meant the defense would have to stand firm without one of the three Tiger Cub captains as Lebanon began to get better chances to score.
Zane Miller thwarted several shots in Ball's absence, his most impressive being a diving stop to prevent Lebanon's Tyler Renton's 25-yard blast from going in.
Moments after Ball was able to return to the field, though, Lebanon finally got a goal after a penalty was given against the Tiger Cubs. Chris Lowe slotted the ball in for the Tigers to cut the deficit in half at 2-1.
Tempers flared late in the contest as three yellow cards were handed out in the last few minutes of the match, but Greencastle, having some of their best possessions in the second half near the end, was able to hang on to the lead for their second win of the season.
Head coach Dave Lilly knew Lebanon would grind on his squad, but noted his squad played at full strength.
"While we were fresh in the first half, we played very well. The results showed that. Two goals, a 2-0 lead in the first half, was a result with our main guys. We're not real deep on the bench, so we had to play those guys a lot," Lilly said.
"Second half, you could see the fatigue kind of set in as we were on our heels a little bit. They had a lot of good scoring chances. Zane Miller stepped up huge and made a lot of great saves."
The penalty that gave Lebanon a lifeline in the match was one that, depending on the view might or might not have been a penalty, a reality that Lilly understands.
"Everybody sees the game they way they see it. From my perspective, I didn't think they earned a penalty kick to make it 2-1. I would have been happier with the 2-0 but, in the end, I think the better team prevailed," Lilly said.
Lilly also emphasized the quality of his squad, not only in terms of play but also in being able to be smart when thing threatened to turn sour late in the game, when the challenges for the ball were more physical and tempers flared late.
"We work on that. We try not to let ourselves get out of control. They're teenage kids and it's an emotional game and sometimes the guys are getting hacked on; they want to take an exception to it, but we did a good job," Lilly said, referring to their ability to stay calm late in the game.
"Our technical ability carried us through tonight. Sonny's first goal, he got the ball free, the keeper was coming out and he chipped him. That was a very nice touch and we got the second goal quickly after that."
With constant pressure building in the match, Lilly mentioned the contribution Ball and the rest of the squad made.
"(Ball) is a difference maker. When he got taken out, we were definitely on our heels. Fortunately, it wasn't a serious injury, he got kicked hard in the back of the leg. He was able to walk it off, but without him in the back, we struggle as far as depth," Lilly said.
"I think you have to give hats off to Zane, Mitchell in the back, Sonny for finishing, Brandon Query and Evan Smith for controlling the midfield play. The rest of the guys stepped up and did some work."
Moving to 2-0-0 on the season, Lilly noted that Lebanon will be used as a standard later in the year.
"Overall, I'm pretty happy with our second game. They're a Sagamore Conference team and they're competitive in that conference. It'll give us a benchmark against Tri-West, who's a possible sectional opponent for us."
"I'm happy with being 2-0, that's for sure."
At Big Walnut Sports Park
Goals -- Greencastle - Basham (2)
Lebanon -- Lowe (Penalty)