Belhseine leads Greece Athena to Class A1 finals with fourth hat trick in five games

By CARSON WERNER

BROCKPORT, N.Y. — Othman Belhseine registered a hat trick to propel No.2 seeded Greece Athena over No.3 seed Churchville-Chili and send the Trojans to their first finals appearance since 2016.

Despite scoring 11 of the team’s 21 goals in the four games leading up to the playoffs, Behlseine entered the semifinal match with zero postseason tallies. His scoring drought ended six minutes after halftime when he settled a Dylan Rice cross and tapped it by the Churchville keeper for Athena’s first tally.

Behlseine’s second of the night couldn’t have been made any easier for him. The Saints keeper drilled a goal kick straight to him, 15 yards away. He settled it, touched it once and sent it back from where it came from to give the Trojans a 2-0 advantage.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Belhseine said in response to the miskick. “Right when I saw it, I knew I had to capitalize on it. I took my time, I was composed and I put it in the corner. When that went in, I knew it was game over.”

However, his work for the night was not over just yet.

Three minutes later, Rice found Belhseine again at the top of the box who used his left foot to find the right corner of the net.

“He’s [Belhseine] a special player, he makes special plays and together they link well too,” Athena head coach Mike Butler added in regards to Belhseine and Rice, the two leading scorers for Athena.

The first half was fairly even between shots and chances from both sides. Churchville’s best opportunity came in the 31st minute on a cross from Nick Millard. A punch-out by Jared Burns rolled to a Saints’ player, but Burns was able to recover.

“I don’t think we were perfect in the first half,” Butler said. “There was a lot of kick and run, but we held it together because we didn’t give anything up. In the second half, I think we wore them down a bit and Michael Tracey’s been unbelievable in the back along with the other backs. Jared Burns had a great game in goal.”

From the 64th minute and on, the Trojans put their efforts toward possessing the ball, never hesitating to clear the ball back to the defense.

Churchville-Chili’s season finishes with a record of 12-6-0.

Greece Athena’s semifinal victory recreates the Class A 2016 title match against neighboring rival Greece Arcadia. The Trojans defeated the Titans by a score of 3-1 for the crown. Athena was 2-0 during the regular season against Arcadia, winning by scores of 3-0 and 3-1.

“They’re [Greece Arcadia] playing their best soccer at the end of the season and we are too,” Butler noted about the upcoming finals match. “Anytime it’s that rivalry game, we always have great matches. Matt (Vergamini) is a very good coach, they’re going to be really well-prepared. I don’t think our game plan changes, we’re just going to be the best we can be.”

The championship match is scheduled to start at 7:30 PM on Friday, Nov.1 at Hilton.

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