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Wed., Feb. 22nd, 2006  Permian girls outlast Lee in chess match
By Len Hayward
Sports Editor
Midland Reporter Telegram

Odessa Permian's Ashli Smith called it a pressure ball. It was the type of scoring opportunity that was rare for the Lady Panthers on Tuesday against a Lee team bent on taking a share of first place in District 3-5A.
But Smith handled the pressure by striking a 10-yard shot past Lee goalkeeper Kayla Weant for the game-winning goal in a 2-1 Permian victory over the Lady Rebels at Grande Communications Stadium. "Those are the shots we work on in practice and they are what we call pressure balls," said Smith, who scored both of Permian's goals. "It was just surprising to get a shot like that."
Smith's 78th minute goal gave the Lady Panthers a leg up in the District 3-5A race, improving to 5-0 in league play and 14-3 overall. Lee, meanwhile, falls to 3-2 and 10-4 but played possibly its best game of the league season. Until Smith's game winner the second half was a chess match between the perennial playoff contenders. Both teams had chances to break a 1-1 first half deadlock but neither could finish. And after a first half where Permian dictated the pace of play, the Lady Rebels picked up some steam by using its defense to create some offense up front in the second 40 minutes. The Lady Rebels worked deep into Permian's half of the field a number of times but came up empty, though. The Lady Panthers, meanwhile, did the same against Lee but the Lady Rebels defense led by Celeste Carruth kept turning away Permian scoring opportunities. Then as the clock wound down to under 10 minutes remaining the pace of play by both teams picked up, as the clubs were looking for that game winner. Lee's first corner kick of the game came in the 71st minute but a header by Rachel Solari went out of bounds. Then seven minutes later Smith worked a near perfect give-and-go with Kendra Cleamons on a Permian rush up the field. Smith ended up with plenty of space and about a 10-yard shot after the pass from Cleamons that she kicked past Weant. Smith was ruled onside on the close play, something some Lee faithful disagreed with.
The Lady Rebels mounted a late charge over the final two minutes but could not maintain control long enough to come up with a shot.
"At the end of the game things can get crazy like that," Lee coach Amanda Melchor said. "You just hope you can get through those last two or three minutes." Lee opened the scoring in the game when Halee Hamm took advantage of a ball that started on a free kick and went over the heads of at least two Lady Panther defenders. Hamm then nailed a shot past Permian goalkeeper Janayae Piper in the game's 21st minute for a 1-0 Lady Rebel advantage. But the Lady Panthers struck back as the clock wound down in the first half as Smith took a chip shot pass from Brittney Thomas and shot the ball past a charging Weant. The score stayed that way until Smith broke the tie late in the game. "We learned that we know we can't leave the game in anyone else's hands but ours," Melchor said. "Permian has a good team and we knew that we had to come ready."