Diamond Bar High School's 2-0 girls soccer victory over Bonita on Tuesday to earn a share of first place in the Hacienda League couldn't have been scripted any better for the Brahmas.
They got the early goal, bunkered up, then sucked all the life out of the host Bearcats after Brahmas junior Tatum Lockett delivered a long-range dagger in the 50th minute.
"With a team as good as Bonita you want to get an early goal on them to kind of get the momentum going in your favor, especially on the road," Diamond Bar coach Matt Brummett said.
Diamond Bar's Tyler Hunt took advantage of a Bonita mishap in front of the goal in the 11th minute to go up 1-0, scoring from a couple yards out after Bonita failed to clear it away. The ball practically rolled right in front of Hunt unmarked in front of the goal.
For the first 10 minutes, Bonita dominated, sending dangerous crosses and forcing Brahmas goalkeeper Leslie Luna to come up with big saves.
But after Diamond Bar scored and sat back, those opportunities weren't there for Bonita the rest of the game.
"That was a gimmie. To give up that first goal kind of set the tone," Bonita coach Lynsee Bock said. "The second one took the wind out of our sails for sure.
"But look, they're a great side and we knew it was going to be a tough match."
Diamond Bar (15-5-4, 8-2-1) moved into a first-place tie with Bonita (12-8-3, 7-1-3) by handing the Bearcats their first league loss.
Diamond Bar can clinch at least a share of the league title by winning at Los Altos on Thursday, which would be the Brahmas' first league title since 2004. Ironically, it was Los Altos that beat Diamond Bar at home in last year's league finale that gave the Conquerors the league title.
"It's really important," Lockett said of Thursday's game. "We're focused on winning it (league title) on Los Altos' field after watching them celebrate on ours. We want to return the favor."
Lockett's second-half goal was a thing of beauty. She intercepted a pass 40 yards in front of the goal, faked a pass right and cut back toward the middle, then unleashed a 25-yard, left-footed shot that couldn't have been placed any better.
"Tatum's been scoring goals out of nowhere all year for us," Brumett said. "Sometimes she will miss the occasional easy one, but she hit that perfect in the upper corner. And the timing was great, it set the tone the rest of the second half."
Diamond Bar was quicker to the ball, won most of the 50-50 battles and made it nearly impossible for the Bearcats to create in the final third with eight to nine players always behind the ball, and being physical at every opportunity.
Lockett said that is the only way they are going to beat Bonita and Los Altos on the road in the final week.
"We're focused every practice on being aggressive," Lockett said. "You can't be soft in the game of soccer, especially in the defensive third. That's what won it, our defense was fantastic the whole game."
Bonita can still clinch a share of its first league title since 2007 with a win at struggling Rowland on Thursday. Whether Bonita will share it with Diamond Bar, which lost 3-2 to Los Altos earlier in the season, remains to be seen.
"We'll see what happens Thursday," Bock said. "But certainly you have to give (Diamond Bar) credit. They played a great game and deserved to win today."