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The Kingsmen took a 3-2 lead in the 71st minute and the Gaby Tena Palomares answered for Hillsboro with 44 seconds left

PMG PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Putnam's Steve Sanchez (17) controls the ball as Hillsboro's Jonthan Verdis closes in from behind during the second half of Tuesday's Northwest Oregon Conference boys soccer match at Hillsboro.For 79 minutes, the Putnam Kingsmen won more one-on-one battles with the Hillsboro Spartans than they lost Tuesday night.

Then in the 80th minute, everything changed.

Hillsboro's Gaby Tena Palomares scored his second goal of the game with 44 seconds remaining, lifting the Spartans to a 3-3 Northwest Oregon Conference draw with the Kingsmen at Hillsboro High School.

Jonathan Verdis set the final scoring play in motion with a free kick from about 45 yards out into the middle of the 18-yard box where the ball found its way to Palomares.

"The defense was pushed back and I saw open space, so I decided to take a touch with my chest and then just spun and shot," Palomares said. "It was a 50-50 deal. Either I make it or I miss."

Palomares' shot was in the back of the net before Putnam keeper Connor Busic had time to react, putting the finishing touch on a see-saw battle that saw two lead changes and three ties.

For the Kingsmen, the end result was a bit of a heartbreaker, considering they had rallied from a 2-1 deficit early in the second half to take a 3-2 lead on Tayvion Fernandez's goal in the 71st minute, only to see that slip away in the final minute.

"After I scored, there was still nine minutes," Fernandez said. "Anything can happen, but I got hyped and my team got hyped. I was expecting us to seal the deal, but … that's just soccer. What can I say?

"It's awful to make mistakes at the last second. I don't know how to explain what happened. There was really nothing we could do about it. It was just a lucky thing that happened.

"At least it's not a loss, but a 'W' would have felt better."

Kingsmen coach David Strohl said he was encouraged by what he saw from his team in the second half.

"If we play with that sort of intensity, I feel like we can go really deep in the playoffs with this type of team," Strohl said. "It's unfortunate the way the game ended, but at the end of the day, by the time the bus ride is over, I think we're going to realize that we performed well today.

"It was a great experience for them to be in a tight game. We haven't been in many tight games. We've either won big or lost big, so it was great to be in a game like this."

Hillsboro coach Stuart Hoiem had mixed emotions, ranging from the disappointment that comes with letting a second-half lead slip away to the sense of relief that comes with salvaging a tie on a last-minute goal.

"In the end, I was happy to see us put out the effort to get that last goal and at least get out of here with a point," Hoiem said. "On the flip side of that, the overall play was largely disappointing.

"Credit to Putnam. We had them pinned in for a while and were creating some good chances and they kept their substitutions coming in and kept trying to defend us and then waited for their chances. And when we gave them chances, they took advantage. So, credit to them."

Hot shots

The teams traded goals in the first half, Putnam's Roman Quick scoring first with an assist from Fernandez in the sixth minute, and Hillsboro's Olin Littlejohn answering with a goal off a Chance Saechao corner kick in the ninth minute.

Hillsboro took a 2-1 lead when Busic, the Kingsmen's senior keeper, blocked a hard shot by Fabian Reyna-Chavez, but left out a rebound that Palomares banged into the net in the 42nd minute.

Putnam pulled even in the 65th minute when Steve Sanchez took a chance from 40 yards out in the middle of the field and drove the ball on a line between Hillsboro keeper Pablo Mendoza Osornia and the right post.

"I've had luck in the past shooting from there and it's just always been my spot," Sanchez said. "I saw an open goal, so I just took a rip at it.

"We needed something to give us some motivation because once we get goals, we get fired up and that's when we play our best. After that goal, we all kept pushing it to the limit."

The Kingsmen regained the lead when Fernandez fed the ball to Carson Golden, who carried the ball almost all the way to the end line on the left side before feeding it back to Fernandez near the top of the 18.

Fernandez then worked his way from left to right and then unloaded a shot the sailed inside the right post to make it 3-2 with 9:10 to play.

"It's funny because we've been wanting Tayvion to be less selfish and to distribute the ball a bit more," Strohl said. "And then the one time he keeps passing and keeps passing, I tell him, 'Dude, you've got to be selfish.' And he finally cut across the top of the box and had a nice goal."

The lead was nice while it lasted — at least, right up to the point where the Spartans caught Putnam's defense leaning the wrong way during a transition rush and the Kingsmen were forced to foul.

"We weren't organized," Strohl said. "The midfield dropped too deep, so we were playing too much for the back line. When Hillsboro played it in the middle, we didn't have anyone there and then we reacted and fouled and gave them a free kick."

Then, how was it that the Kingsmen didn't have somebody marking Palomares more closely when Verdis sent the free kick into the box?

"You know, the guy (Palomares) came out and made a nice touch to his left and finished it," Strohl said. "That's a shot you work on from the time you're 6 years old is that little lay-off-and-hit-it shot. So, he did exactly what he was supposed to do. We just didn't defend it well."

The tie moved Putnam's record to 5-4-2 overall and 2-1-1 in NWOC play, while Hillsboro stood at 4-3-2 overall and 1-1-2 in league with three games remaining in the regular season.

"This puts us in a hole," said Hoiem, the Hillsboro coach. "As of tonight, we were sitting fifth and that would put us out of the playoffs if the season ended right now.

"We talked about this game being a must-win. We needed the points and we needed to make sure we put ourselves in playoff contention with a win. And now we're going to have to take every game from here on out that way, and when all is said and done, hopefully, we've done enough."

By Jim Beseda
Sports editor
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