Second-half effort lifts Pilots past Cousino

WARREN, Mich. - Something happened behind closed doors at halftime of Friday night's Division 1 district championship game at Warren Cousino.

Perhaps another inspiring speech from legendary head coach Thaier Mukhtar?

There's a good probability of that having happened, as his De La Salle Pilots lifted their game in the second half against the host Patriots, scoring less than six minutes in and tacking on another in a 2-0 victory which brought some more hardware back to the school and propelled them onto regional play.

"We discussed at halftime what we needed to do better. It wasn't like I'm talking right now," said Mukhtar, with a grin on his face following the victory. "It had to do with waking our defense up, to set the tempo. They caught us on our heels right from the get-go. I thought offensively they put a lot of pressure on us. We started off really slow and we talked at halftime, that we needed to step it up, we needed to beat them to those 50-50 balls."

Mukhtar was pleased with how his team was able to set the tempo in that second half, with great movement up high, playing off of the second (pass), and looking for crosses into the box.

That's exactly what happened with 34:35 remaining on the clock, as senior Thomas Turner found himself on the receiving end of a cross from junior Spencer LeBeau.

"I just saw open space in the box, the ball went wide and (LeBeau) just crossed it between the 6 and the 12 and I just one-timed it," Turner said of his game-winner. "(In that second half), the defense started playing more composed, more confident, going to the ball, stepping to it, and not being flat-footed. They controlled it well and knocked it to our mids. They were just solid."

De La Salle's defense helped keep the Patriots in check throughout the second half and led the Pilots to their fourth straight shutout victory. Seniors Luke Kassin and Logan Manor combined for four saves in goal. The Pilots outshot the Patriots 22-9 in the game. 

LeBeau tacked on a goal with 17:53 left in the game, punching in a rebound off the post for a 2-0 lead.

"I give my boys a lot of credit. They woke up and brought it to them in the second half and followed the game plan perfectly," Mukhtar said. "I think you saw a more determined team coming out, a fired-up team coming out (of halftime). They understand what's at stake."

Next up for De La Salle will be a regional semifinal matchup against No. 2 ranked Troy Athens, Tuesday, at Troy High School. The kick-off is scheduled for 5 p.m.

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