Once the hot start cooled off, the Bonney Lake Panthers started to show signs of weakness.
But despite a long lull, all it took was a timely second-half goal to snap them out of their funk.
Brody Fitzsimmons scored a key goal in the 41st minute, helping Bonney Lake (18-4) take command in a 3-1 win over Hanford on Friday afternoon in a Class 3A state semifinal game at Sparks Stadium.
The Panthers will take on Shorecrest (16-3), a 3-2 winner over Bainbridge, in Saturday’s championship game at 2 p.m.
The Panthers opened the second half in spectacular fashion, as Colton Tracy floated a pass across the middle for Fitzsimmons, who calmly deposited it in the right corner of the goal for an easy score and a 2-0 lead.
“At halftime we needed to come out and put a better performance in the first 20 minutes,” Bonney Lake coach Luke Helling-Christy said. “We got it in the first couple minutes.”
Hanford (14-7) was finally able to answer in the 57th minute when Kelly Smith headed in a shot off a corner kick, somersaulting over his defender’s back in the process.
When it looked like Hanford was starting to make a final push, the Panthers struck back in the 76th minute. Suwilanji Silozi, the SPSL 3A’s offensive MVP, centered a pass on a breakaway for Fitzsimmons, who was trailing the play.
Goalkeeper Jacob Thiel broke on the ball, but Fitzsimmons beat him to it and scored to push the lead to 3-1.