WEST LONG BRANCH - Like every other ball played into the boxes on either side of the field in the second boys Shore Conference Tournament semifinal game Saturday night, Freehold Township junior Adam Havens played a dangerous-looking ball to the right side of the six-yard box only to watch it curl away from the goal with none of his teammates getting to it.

For 84 full minutes, neither Freehold Township nor Colts Neck could muster anything dangerous against the other and Havens's left-footed service was the latest example. In soccer though, a play is harmless until it is not and the ball ended up back in Havens's possession just seconds later.

This time, the junior was going for the goal and just like that, the game was over.

Havens smoked the game-winning shot off a Colts Neck defender and into the far right corner off the net in the 85th minute - the golden goal in Freehold Township's 1-0 win over eighth-seeded Colts Neck to advance to the Shore Conference Tournament final for the first time since 2014.

The fourth-seeded Patriots will play No. 15 Manasquan in Wednesday's SCT championship game, also at Shore Regional.

PHOTO GALLERY: Freehold Twp. vs. Colts Neck by Paula Lopez

Freehold Township junior Adam Havens (7) scored the overtime winner Saturday. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

"We were confident and our goal was not to go to extra time," Havens said. "We wanted to score early and often but it didn't go the way we wanted to. We stayed together as a team and we said, 'We are finishing this game right now. We saw the (CBA-Manasquan) game before (go to penalty kicks) and we're not doing that. We're finishing this.'"

After Havens's initial ball into the box fell by the wayside, the Patriots won back possession and senior Connor Latona played the ball back toward the front of the goal.

Colts Neck goalkeeper Dylan Jacobs punched the cross away, but it did not make it pas Havens. On the left side of the 18-yard box, the junior midfielder hit a shot that glanced off a defender and found its mark to set off the celebration.

"As soon as that ball went into the box, I had faith my teammates were going to get it across," Havens said. "As soon as it hit my chest, I knew that was it."

Havens's shot was just the fifth of the game for Freehold Township, which outshot Colts Neck 5-3 in a defensive struggle.

 

"It was frustrating but I knew we were playing and all of a sudden, it started clicking," Havens said. "We started playing the way we wanted to."

The Cougars won their first three SCT games by a cumulative score of 4-0, with consecutive 1-0 wins over Long Branch and Toms River South leading up to Saturday night's match. Colts Neck has also only allowed eight goals in 14 games after Saturday's loss.

"Their formation was interesting," Havens said of Colts Neck. "They had three defenders in the back, then five defenders in the back and the way they attacked and defended as a unit was great. It was nicely-coached. It wasn't what I expected but we adjusted nicely."

Havens's goal was just his third of the year but all three have been big. His first was a game-winner in a 1-0 win at Marlboro that handed the Mustangs their first loss and his second proved to be the game-winner in a 2-1 win over Jackson Memorial.

"Adam is a tough kid mentally and he is very skilled," Freehold Township coach Josh Mehl said. "In big moments, he just finds a way. When the ball found him, the second he struck it, I knew it was in, because he just has that confidence. He is super-talented and he has been unlucky at times this year but in those big moments, he finds a way to get it done."

Freehold Township opened the season with consecutive losses on the field to Toms River North and Holmdel and then suffered one to its roster when senior standout Tiron Shatku informed the team he stepping away to pursue a professional career in Europe.

A 2-1 loss to Rumson-Fair Haven dropped the Patriots to 4-4 and since then, they have gone 9-1 with the lone loss coming at Christian Brothers Academy.

"After that Rumson loss, we had the tough part of our schedule coming up," Mehl said. "We got together and we said, 'We are a talented team. We can be one of those teams that is in a Shore Conference final and can be in a state final. We just have to believe that. Whatever happened after that moment, they believe now."

In addition to playing for the the program's fourth SCT championship on Wednesday night, Freehold Township is one win away from clinching the Shore Conference Class A North championship. The Patriots will play Middletown South sometime after the SCT concludes to determine the A North championship.

"This game is not what we were aiming to be," Havens said. "We set our goals on winning championships. We're one step away from one championship and that's not enough for us. We want to go out Wednesday and we need to dominate, then go out and dominate the first round of states. We want to keep the train rolling."

Box Score

Freehold Township 1, Colts Neck 0 (OT)

12OTF
Colts Neck (9-4-1)0000
Freehold Twp. (13-5)0011

Goals (Assists): (FT) Adam Havens (Connor Latona) 85'
Shots: Freehold Twp., 5-3
Saves: (CN) Dylan Jacobs 2; (FT) John Wilhelm 1

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