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Gaither, King win titles by one

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© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2001

TAMPA -- After scoring three of King's six goals Thursday, freshman midfielder Megan Johnson might have let someone else take charge of the offense Friday.

But she didn't.

Johnson's two goals were all King (14-3-2) needed to beat East Bay 2-1 in the Western Conference championship at Plant.

King coach John Ackerman moved Johnson from her usual defender position to center-midfield to match up with East Bay's counterattack style.

It worked, but not right away as Johnson's two first-half shots missed the goal and the Indians were able to keep the game scoreless going into halftime.

"East Bay beat us in the first half," Ackerman said. "They completely dominated us."

But East Bay's offense was not doing any better than King's. Whenever the Indians went into their counterattack game, King defender Jessica Bell met the Indians and would clear the ball back into East Bay's side.

"She's a great player," Ackerman said. "She's comfortable with the ball and she doesn't panic. She stays calm, despite the pressure they put on her."

But only four minutes into the second half, Johnson scored her first goal off of a penalty kick.

Ten minutes later, King forward Becky Ware hit the ball off of the crossbar. Johnson was right there to knock it in and put the Lions up 2-0.

East Bay's (12-4-2) lone goal came from sophomore Lisa Verbosky. East Bay coach Claudine Sosa said Johnson's first goal hurt her team.

"Whenever the other team gets a goal like that, it really stings," Sosa said. "But our team kept fighting and never gave up."

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