PETAL - Set pieces were St. Patrick's best friend Wednesday night in its South State championship match with Sacred Heart, scoring off a free kick and another goal after a corner.
Both goals came in the first half, then the Irish defense held strong to defeat the Crusaders 2-0. Chris Collins finished both goals for St. Patrick, cleaning up what Michael Escobar sent into the box on the set plays.
In the sixth minute, Escobar clipped a free kick inside the six-yard box, then after the first shot didn't find the net, Collins was there to put it away for the Irish.
Later in the first half, the Irish faced one of their two corner kick opportunities. Escober sent a shot close to the near post and Collins was there to tap the ball in to take a 2-0 lead
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The two-goal lead would seem massive with the way the Irish's defense was playing, and the pressure was on Sacred Heart to chip away at the lead.
St. Patrick's defense had the bend but don't break mentality with Chad Hudson leading a group that helped protect the lead. The Crusaders were able to get decent opportunities, but the Irish's backline held strong. Even when they took a shot, Peter Holland was there for the save.
Holland recorded 10 saves in the match.
St. Patrick will play SE Lauderdale at 2 p.m. in the 1A/2A/3A State Championship at Clinton on Saturday.
Stone is also headed to the state finals, beating Gautier 1-0 in the state semifinals. Mason Hunt scored the Tomcats' only goal.