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South Laurel’s Jonathan Nava (17) watches as his shot goes into the goal past Johnson Central’s keeper James Chafin. Nava would add another as the South Laurel Cardinals advanced to the 16th Region finals with a 3-0 win over the Golden Eagles.

Two goals from Jonathan Nava and a strong defensive effort gave South Laurel a 3-0 win over Johnson Central Friday night in the boys’ 16th Region semifinals.

With the win, the Cardinals advanced to Saturday’s championship game against Paintsville, a 1-0 winner over Pikeville in the other semifinal.

“Our defense was great,” coach Randy Collins said. “I knew coming in that we had to shut down No. 10 (Chaney Jacobs). Dustin Lawson and Seth Hale did a great job on him.”

The Cardinals (17-4-1) got their first goal in the 12th minute, when a high shot by Luke McCowan was saved by Golden Eagles keeper James Chafin, but he lost control of the ball and it fell to the ground, where Nava was in the right place to touch it into an open goal for the 1-0 lead. That’s how the first half would end.

South Laurel added two more goals in the second half to complete the 3-0 win. The first came with 23 minutes remaining when Nava scored again to make it 2-0. The third goal came in the 77th minute as McCowan found Lawson, who fired a one touch shot into the upper 90 from 30 yards out.

“We possessed the ball well tonight,” Collins said. “We had control about 70 percent of the game. Toward the end, they (Johnson Central) tried to play boom ball and send it long for Jacobs to run on to, but we were able to shut them out.”

Collins said he feels confident about his team’s chances if they continue to play strong defensively.

“We have to keep our defensive intensity up,” Collins said. “Austin (Rader) and Joey (Fiefhaus) did a great job defensively. On offense, Tanner Chaney had a good game distributing the ball. It was a great effort by all, and I’m pleased with the result.”

The Cardinals met Paintsville Saturday afternoon for the 16th Region crown. The Tigers came into the match sporting the region’s best record at 18-1-1. The winner of that game will play host to Paul Laurence Dunbar tonight at 7 p.m. in the state sub-sectional.

sports@sentinel-echo.com

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