When Johansen High's Kyle Sessa flipped a pass from the corner of the pool to Tyler Booth, he wasn't just expecting his teammate to take the shot -- he expected him to make it.
"The way the game was going, we really needed to score," said Sessa, whose team was locked in a defensive duel with Modesto. "The second half was all about defense. One goal would make a big difference."
Booth never hesitated, taking the pass 20 feet from the goal and firing it into the goal with 50 seconds left to lift the Vikings over Modesto 6-5.
The decision leaves Johansen and Modesto tied for second place at 10-4 in the Modesto Metro Conference, with Downey (9-4) a half-game back. Downey's game with Enochs (1-12) was postponed because of lightning and will be played Monday.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
If the Knights win, the three teams will be tied for second and a coin flip will determine which two advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. MMC champion Oakdale (13-0) has already secured the top seed.
Johansen lost to Modesto in their first conference meeting, but the Vikings' defense spelled the difference this time.
"That was great defense by both sides, but we were able to set up the shot at the end," said Booth, who had misfired on similar shots earlier in the game. "Coach (Brent Bohlender) told me to keep shooting and that it eventually it would go in,"
The key was Booth's quick reaction.
Modesto goalie Jon Key shifted to his right to defend against Sessa and was unable to get back in the center of the goal before Booth fired away.
"I shot to the right side of the goal because that was the farthest spot from the goalie," Booth said. "We had to win or our season was over. At least we've still got a chance for the playoffs."
The game wasn't over, though, until Johansen goalie Brian Lewis blocked a point-blank shot at the buzzer. Sessa had a role in that, too.
He shifted to the center of the pool when he saw Modesto setting up a shot. His presence forced the Panthers to instead launch their final shot from right side, giving Lewis the advantage of having to protect only one side of the goal.
Bee staff writer Richard T. Estrada can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2300.