Four minutes from seeing its three-year reign as Section III Class AA champions reach an end, the Baldwinsville boys soccer team rescued itself - and crushed the spirits of Cicero-North Syracuse in the process.
The no. 2 seed Bees used Dan Knight's goal late in regulation and Mike Guardino's conversion 7:49 into overtime to turn a late deficit into a 2-1 victory over the Northstars Wednesday night in the Section III Class AA semifinals at Liverpool High School's turf, setting up a championship showdown with top seed Fayetteville-Manlius, who beat West Genesee 3-1 in the other semifinal.
All through B'ville's championship reign, CNS has posed one of the biggest threats, as the two sides have engaged in fierce, low-scoring and physical contests normally decided by a single big play - or single mistake. That includes the Bees winning over the Northstars in the 2008 sectional finals and '09 semifinals.
And for a long while here, that same pattern was repeating itself, as much of regulation was played in a 0-0 deadlock. Despite a vibrant pace and a whole host of scoring chances, the Bees and Northstars could not convert.
Late in the first half, CNS goalkeeper Dan DeBottis made two spectacular stops, tipping Ben Ramin's hard shot over the net, then making a kick save on Casey Murphy's shot a couple of minutes later, so it went to the second half still 0-0.
Midway through the second half, the Northstars nearly took the lead as Thiago DeSouza rushed in with the ball. He shot once, and the ball slipped out of Andrew Coughlin's grasp, allowing DeSouza an open shot into an unoccupied net - and he hit it wide right.
Both sides were starting to grapple with the possibility of overtime when, with 7:56 to play, a B'ville defender misplayed a CNS cross from the right side, allowing Josh Williams a free run to the net, and he slid the ball past Coughlin, giving the Northstars a 1-0 lead.