Brookland-Cayce advanced to the third round of the Class 3A boys soccer tournament on Thursday by defeating St. James 2-1 at The Cage.
The Bearcats led 1-0 at halftime, but the Sharks soon tied the score in the second half. After regaining the advantage with 16 minutes left, B-C held off St. James’ advances with robust defense — including several key saves from keeper Grant Strickland.
“The two teams we’ve played so far in the playoffs have been great opponents for us,” B-C coach Kevin Heise said. “They forced us to play our hearts out. I’m just extremely proud of my boys for getting it done.”
The Bearcats, winners of the Region 5 title, put the pressure on St. James early, posting three shots in the first six minutes.
St. James moved to a heavier defense to counter the Bearcats’ assertive efforts up front, but in the 26th minute, Brookland-Cayce broke through.
Dontrell Taylor brought the ball up and set up the goal off a throw-in. A St. James defender deflected the Bearcats’ initial strike, but Tyler Brazell teed it back up and Francisco Ponce-Cruz put away the shot.
“You can’t score if you don’t shoot,” Heise said. “Francisco had been in the game about 10 seconds, and he took that shot, no dribble, no touch. You’ve got to just take the shot sometimes.”
The Bearcats outshot the Sharks 21-11, and Strickland finished with eight saves. St. James goalkeeper Haywood Brandon had nine.
St. James tied the score early in the second half.
In the 51st minute, the Sharks pushed quickly upfield, and Conor Sloan finished the attack with a crossing shot angled behind the keeper.
The game remained tied until the 64th minute, when Scottie Newman put a header into the side of the goal off a double assist from Herbert Cojulun and David Koprowski.
“You couldn’t script it better, than for one of your senior guys to step up and do that,” Heise said.
The Bearcats will play the third round at Hilton Head on Saturday. Brookland-Cayce may have to play that game without star forward Cojulun, whose previously sprained shoulder was reinjured in Thursday’s game.
“We’ll see how it is in 48 hours,” Heise said. “It’s going to be nagging him, but he’ll fight through it and play if he can.”