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Saints junior follows the bouncing ball

02/27/2013, 11:13pm PST
By Nathan Max

Winning penalty kick goes into net off crossbar for St. Augustine.

St. Augustine junior midfielder Kevin Bitar said he lives for the moment when the game rests on his shoulders.

That moment took longer than usual Wednesday night.

Bitar slammed the final kick of a nail-biting shootout off the bottom of the crossbar before the ball ricocheted directly below, hitting the goal line.

As an entire Mesa College stadium crowd held its breath, the ball’s backspin carried it over the line, giving the second-seeded Saints a dramatic 4-2 penalty-kick victory over third-seeded San Diego Southwest in the San Diego Section Division III semifinals after the teams had played to a 0-0 draw.

“That moment between the crossbar and the ball hitting the net was an eternity,” Bitar said. “That was a tough moment. ... I was nervous.”

Junior goalkeeper Cody Russell made Bitar’s moment possible when he saved back-to-back kicks in the second and third rounds, diving first to his left and then to his right.

“I look at their run-ups, and I watch their hips,” Russell said. “A striker will give it away with his hips and run-up. It’s always a guessing game, but if it’s an educated guess, it’s to your advantage.”

St. Augustine advanced to Saturday’s 11 a.m. title game and will return to Mesa College to face the winner of Wednesday night’s University City-San Dieguito game.

Southwest outshot St. Augustine 12-9 and held a 6-2 advantage in corner kicks. But the Raiders could not finish their chances.

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