LONG BEACH — At the end, all Sam Grayeli could do was watch as Costa Mesa's back-to-back title hopes were quashed.
Swimming frantically back on defense, Grayeli wasn't able to get back in time to stop South Pasadena's Brian Butcher from lobbing in a goal in sudden death overtime, giving the Tigers a 12-11 victory in the Southern Section Division III title game Wednesday at Belmont Plaza.
"I had the best seat in the house," Grayeli said.
Earlier, Grayeli had scored the eight goals that helped the Mustangs (24-8) take a commanding lead. His third goal, on a penalty shot 14 seconds into the second quarter, gave Costa Mesa a 4-0 lead.
But South Pasadena (28-4) stiffened its defense--Costa Mesa only scored one more goal in the quarter--and scored three, and it was 5-3 at the half.
The Mustangs again took a four-goal lead in the third quarter when Grayeli scored two and his younger brother, Robert, put in one to put the Mustangs up, 8-4.
South Pasadena, which trailed 9-6 entering the fourth quarter, rallied and tied the score, 10-10, on a man-advantage goal by Jeremy Estep with 2:07 left in regulation.
Robert Grayeli, who scored the Mustangs' other three goals, put in a lob to give Costa Mesa a lead with 1:09 left. But with 29 seconds left, Estep took a pass from Erik Granata and knocked it in from two-meters.
The first overtime period was scoreless, but with 40 seconds left Costa Mesa had a near goal. Bob Paulhus, guarded closely at two-meters to the left of the goal, took a pass from Sam Grayeli and pushed his shot just wide.
The Mustangs got the ball once in the sudden death period but turned it over on an offensive foul and Butcher was all alone when he got the ball. He moved in, faked once and lobbed it over goalkeeper Chris Avitia's head.
"It was in our hands," said Sam Grayeli, a senior. "We could have won the whole thing back-to-back."