LEXINGTON — Peter Them could deal with the loss. It was the manner in which the defeat came that left a bitter taste in the mouth of Lexington’s veteran coach.
Lima Shawnee’s Austin Miller scored on a controversial penalty kick with 8:30 remaining in overtime for a stunning 2-1 victory over the Minutemen in the Division II regional championship match on an unseasonably warm afternoon at Lexington High School.
Shawnee was awarded the PK after the head referee ruled Jack Miller had been fouled in the box. Shawnee coach Ryan Quatman had Austin Miller take the PK and the sophomore forward’s shot to the upper right corner of the goal was deflected by Lex goalkeeper Kaleb Rinehart but still found the side netting, sending Shawnee to the state semifinals for the second time in program history and first time since 2001 while denying the Minutemen a second straight trip to the Final Four.
“I don’t want to criticize the referees. That’s not what I’m standing here for,” Them said. “But to decide that game that way, at this level, it doesn’t feel right. It’s not fair to these kids.”
Lexington (17-4-0) dictated play most of the afternoon. The Minutemen outshot Shawnee (17-2-1) 9-5, including a 6-3 advantage in the second half and overtime.
“Anyone who watches that game sees Lexington is the better team (today). They outplayed us,” Quatman said. “We had a game plan coming in and we executed the game plan.”
As for the foul on Jack Miller, Quatman thought the referee got it right.
“I think it was a penalty from my perspective and I would tell you differently if I thought differently,” Quatman said. “Honestly it’s not a great way to win a game. It’s a sour pill for Lexington, to go down with a penalty kick.
“It’s not really how you want to finish a game at all, but that’s what happened. I think the referee made a difficult decision, but the right one, and our guy buried the penalty.”
Lexington, which beat Shawnee in last year’s regional championship game, took a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute when Ryan Parker buried a beautiful crossing pass from Gage Potter in the back of the net. Shawnee equalized 17 minutes later on a free kick by Jack Miller after Brayden Ward was fouled from behind just outside the box.
“The first half, I thought it was pretty even,” Them said. “We gave up the stupid foul and they scored on the direct kick (with) a nice finish.
“We put them on their heels pretty much the whole second half, but we couldn’t crack the code. It’s just unfortunate that the game was decided that way.”