By Bonta Hill
Mission High School got all it could handle from visiting Balboa before squeezing out a 1-0 victory to remain in the hunt for Academic Athletic Association Championship.
Mission (13-5-3, 10-1-0) forward Oscar Ramirez scored the game’s only goal in the 5th minute off of a pass from Milton Rossini. Yet, with an eye on Thursday’s showdown with first-place Lowell, the Bears weren’t too happy with their performance.
“We were really not here today. We were playing kickball [and] we were not making the passes that we usually make,” said Mission assistant coach Wilson Jimenez. “Physically we were here, mentally we were somewhere else.”
As Mission felt they played below their expectations, the Bucs (6-4-1, 6-4-1) were happy with their effort. Balboa controlled most of the second half and had two golden opportunities to tie the game.
Balboa forward Nestor Conchola had the best chance to tie the game in the 54th minute, when he broke free on the right side, and his shot beat Mission keeper Jose Guevara-Fuentes, but went inches wide of the left post.
Conchola would have another opportunity in the 73rd minute as he attempted a free kick from the left side from 25 yards out, but Guevara-Fuentes would get his left hand up just in time to make a great save.
“In the second half we had more run with the ball and we certainly had our opportunities to tie the game,” said Balboa head coach Wentworth Houston. “I told our players that the trick to playing Mission is to mark their players, because they try to play keep away. “
As both coaches substituted frequently to keep their respective players hydrated in the heat, it was Balboa who took the fight to the championship contenders, which had Houston feeling good about his teams prospects for a strong finish.
“This was a moral victory, because when we usually play at Mission, we’ve lost 5-1, 4-0, 6-2. So yes, it was a moral victory,” Houston said. “My seniors stepped up and we really thought we had a chance to win. We were talking to each other and I could see the difference in their play.”
As for the Bears, they stopped short of saying their sloppy play was due to looking ahead to their showdown against the Lowell, but Jimenez was happy that they got this test from Balboa, as they’ll look to improve to be even stronger come playoff time.
“I’m glad this is happening right now because we can learn a lot from this game,” Jimenez said. “It seems like our team is hungry though. At the end of the game everybody was talking to each other reflecting on their mistakes.”