Wildcats fall in OT to Castle

Photo by Hunter Tickel/The Herald
Jasper senior midfielder Sam Leonard (16) vies for the ball with Castle senior Jack Gaylord. Jasper took 3A-No.3 Castle to overtime, but the Knights came away with a 2-1 win.
EVANSVILLE — Jasper pushed 3A-No. 3 Castle to extra time on Tuesday in Sectional 16 at Evansville Memorial. 
In the end, it was a duplicate result of last year's sectional semifinals, a 2-1 win by the Knights. 
Castle faced adversity in its playoff opener but showed why it's elite by finding the equalizer and game-winner.
Senior midfielder Miles Reshetar whipped in a cross on a corner kick that bent up and over everyone in the box and caromed off the post and in, with two seconds left in the first overtime period. 
With four minutes left in the match, Jasper (7-6-4) sophomore Moises Ortiz's glancing header lofted on top of the bar. 
The game was scoreless, but action picked up in the 37th minute, as Jasper shocked Castle by burying its first strike on goal. 
A throw-in from the sideline floated into the middle of the box, senior Sam Leonard gained possession and had a split-second opening for a shot that was blocked by a field player before it fell on a platter with time for sophomore forward Brandon Elizarraras to slip it into the corner.
"The first time we played them, we had to sit in, and defend, defend, defend," coach Kyle Kendall said. "We didn't really put much together offensively. They found a penalty early on and took a 1-0 lead. That was the only score of the game. We talked if we could just hold them, and hold them, and hold them, how frustrated they would get. We didn't need many chances, we just needed to make the most of the ones we got. That throw-in went out of bounds and I told the coaches, 'This feels like a big moment.'" 
It was Elizarraras' 10th to finish the season as his team's leading scorer. 
After the goal, the mood of the Knights' players became sunken, while the Wildcats were buoyed by the change in fortunes.
"It was inspirational," sophomore keeper Chase Spears said. "You have no idea. The whole team was lifted."  
The urgency from the Jasper side picked up, passes became crisper and most importantly the belief in a result cemented with each tackle and clearance. 
With heavy numbers behind the ball, Castle couldn't find the right combination to break down the wall in the run of play.  
Free kicks were another story.
In the 70th minute, an errant handball just outside the 18 by Jasper paved the way for senior Jackson Mitchell to bend his free kick to the left upper corner to knot the match. He bagged his 17th goal of the campaign.  
Then, 14 minutes later, Mitchell was thwarted on his penalty kick after a solo run down the sideline and cut into the box, before being yanked down. 
Spears sprawled to his right, blocking the effort with his extended left foot.   
The Knights, who conceded nine goals in 16 games, lost once and trailed rarely, found tough sledding playing from behind.   
In the 60th minute, a driven Castle ball bending to the far post skipped in the six-yard box, before bouncing inches wide of the frame. 
Eight minutes later, a corner kick by the Knights hit to the near post found feet but no effort on goal, after the ball wasn't cleared, they had the ball near the six after another cross, but couldn't fire it.
The first half was played almost entirely in the Jasper defensive third as Castle secured the lion's share of possession.
Early in the match, it was evident that Jasper was likely going to create chances on free kicks, throw-ins and counterattacks. 
"We're a good team," Kendall said. "I've got a young team. We are putting six, seven sophomores on the field every night. It's a young group that is growing and learning. A bunch of seniors that just worked their tails off today, juniors, everybody stepped up. I'm just proud of this team. I know we can play with anyone in the state." 

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