MONUMENT - Lewis-Palmer should have no trouble finding motivation for next season after what transpired Wednesday night.
No. 22 Centaurus' Giovanni Nunez scored 4:21 into overtime after Lewis-Palmer defender Alex Allenspach fell resulting from apparent contact between the two players, giving the Warriors a 2-1 victory over the 11th-seeded Rangers in the opening round of the 4A state tournament at Don Breese Stadium.
Centaurus (9-7) reveled in the win as a couple Lewis-Palmer players trotted after the trio of referees, imploring them for an explanation for the abrupt end. Rangers coach Brian Barkey said the nature of the loss will leave a bad taste in his players' mouths for quite some time.
"It's an awful way to lose," Barkey said. "It's frustrating to end our season on a foul that had been called earlier in the game, but not called there. In my opinion, it was absolutely a foul.
"If we take care of business in the (first) 80 minutes, then we don't have this to worry about."
The Warriors had two quality chances to end the game in regulation, including with 50 seconds remaining, but Gabe Antunez's shot hit the right post and ricocheted out of bounds.
Nunez, who missed part of the season with an ankle injury, scored both of Centaurus' goals.
"I just wanted this so bad, and I didn't want this to be our last game of the season," Nunez said. "Any little mistake can be a game-winning goal. The other team is great, and we had a hard time playing against them."
Both sides agreed the outcome could have easily gone either way.
"Giovanni has crazy speed, so the opportunity to turn him loose a little bit was pretty exciting," Centaurus coach Ken Ebersole said. "The first 10 or 15 minutes, it was survival mode for us. We had a couple of chances in the last two minutes of regulation to end the game, but I just told the guys to just keep doing what we were doing (in overtime)."
Lewis-Palmer (10-4-2) squandered a handful of scoring chances in the game's first seven minutes - including when Jasper Linnewedel's shot hit the right corner of the goal post just four minutes into the game - and also had opportunities to score late in the first half. With both teams missing on good looks at the net, the game was scoreless at the break.
Nunez put the Warriors up 1-0 one minute into the second when he found the far left corner of the net, but Lewis-Palmer would answer. Gavin Grabb made it 1-1 in the 54th minute on a long, curling shot from the left wing that scored to the right of goalie Ventura Dominguez.
Despite the loss, Barkey was pleased by his team's progress and prospects for next season.
"This year was much better than before, and I'm real proud of where we went and what we've done," Barkey said.
"We've got a great group of kids returning next year that I'm excited about, and they're very resilient and motivated."