PHOTO CREDIT: LEE ADAMS/ICC
FULTON — Nearly 100 minutes of nail-biting turned into a release of exhilaration Wednesday when Mississippi Gulf Coast defeated Itawamba 3-2 with a first-overtime golden goal.
Jess Shepherd (So., Parrswood/Manchester, England) took a pass from Summer Hansen (Fr., West Harrison/Gulfport) and banged the winning goal in with 1:12 to play in the first 10-minute overtime period.
"Summer was coming down the wing and the back line was flat," Shepherd said. "I saw the run behind to cut it back and I shot. It hit the post and went in."
Gulf Coast improves to 7-5-2 overall and advances to the MACJC semifinals Saturday, where the Lady Bulldogs will play Jones County. The game is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Freedom Park in Ridgeland.
ICC finishes its year at 10-8.
The Lady Bulldogs twice fought back from one-goal deficits in the first half. ICC opened the scoring in the 14th minute, but Casey LaFontaine (So., Pass Christian/Pass Christian) equalized five minutes later off a pass from Shepherd.
Gulf Coast allowed another goal in the 28th minutes, but Erin Longsden (So., Droylsden Academy/Manchester, England) made it 2-2 on an assist by L.T. Massey (So., Oak Grove/Hattiesburg) with 10:29 left before halftime.
The Lady Bulldogs, who hadn't seen Itawamba this year, switched tactics at halftime.
"What we worked on for the gameplan didn't develop, so we had to go back to what we like to do," MGCCC coach Jackie Rhodes said. "We saw more success when we pressed high."
Gulf Coast took control after halftime, but didn't get the breakthrough until there were 72 seconds left in the first OT. Hansen took advantage when an ICC player eased up near the sideline in her own end.
She seized possession and set into motion the determining play.
"We just kept pressing and pressing, and finally we got a run in behind (the defense)," Hansen said. "I saw her bend her run and she took it from there."
The goal resulted in Shepherd being mobbed in the ICC penalty area.
"It was whoever had more guts was going to pull that out," Rhodes said. "It was back and forth, and it's what you want to see in the playoffs."
With the win, Gulf Coast gets a chance to continue its season Saturday
"We were super nervous in the first half," Shepherd said. "We were just battling to tie the game up. The second half we took control and played the way we've been playing the second half of the season. It's unbelievable. I can't even describe it."
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