Pelham boys making return to Final Four after 1-0 win against Helena
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor
PELHAM – For the fifth time in the last six seasons, the Pelham Panthers are headed to the Final Four after a thrilling rivalry win against Helena on Friday, April 30.
In a tightly-contested battle with the Huskies, Pelham was able to get a first-half goal that made the difference in a 1-0 win to earn a spot in Huntsville where they’ll battle for their second state championship in the last four years.
Excluding last year because of the postseason being canceled, the Panthers have now advanced to the Final Four every season for the last six seasons aside from 2018.
Pelham won the title in 2017 but that marked the team’s only trip to the title game in that span.
Taking on Helena for the third time this season, winning the first matchup 1-0 and the second 4-0, the Panthers knew going into the game that this game would be much more like the first one on March 18.
In that match, Kenneht Hernandez played hero for Pelham with the team’s lone goal, while Braden Troxell got the clean sheet.
This time around, it was Kevin Garcia who made the difference.
As one of the team’s most dangerous offensive threats alongside Miguel Obando during their current 10-match win streak, Garcia found a scoring opportunity with 17:01 to play in the opening half and capitalized.
To that point, both teams were battling back and forth in a tight game where it felt like one team was going to find the back of the net, and once they did, it could become the difference maker.
That’s exactly what happened.
After that goal from Garcia, the Panthers relied heavily on their defense, which has posted eight shutouts in the last 12 matches.
Helena, who had scored more than one goal in eight of its last nine matches, continued to find opportunities throughout, but that lone game the Huskies didn’t score multiple goals in was a shutout loss to the Panthers.
Pelham’s defense continued its recent trend and found ways make plays in the back end and keep the Huskies off the board the rest of the game, making Garcia’s goal count as the only one in a 1-0 win.
Braden Troxell was also key again thanks to his second clean sheet against the Huskies this season.
The No. 5 Panthers will now take on No. 3 McGill-Toolen for a spot in the Final Four on Friday, May 7 at 11 a.m. at Huntsville’s John Hunt Park.
Helena finished the season 12-8-1 overall.