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Hebron rolls into state finals with 5-1 victory

DACULA -- Paidiea knocked Hebron Christian Academy out of the boys soccer state playoffs last year.

The Lions will get a chance at redemption on Saturday in the biggest game in the program's history.

Bailey Pinto scored three goals to lift Hebron to a 5-1 victory over First Presbyterian Day on Wednesday in the semifinals of the state playoffs.

"This is awesome," Hebron coach Bob Gardner said. "I can't put it into words."

The victory puts Hebron in the Class A state finals for the first time in school history against Paidiea, who defeated Savannah Christian. The Lions will play Paidiea on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at the University of West Georgia.

"We're a different team and a lot more confident," Pinto said of the postseason rematch with Paidiea.

Hebron's boys soccer team will try to become the second program to win a GHSA state title. Hebron's baseball team was the first in 2011.

"We've got a tough game," Gardner said. "Paidiea is very good."

Hebron (16-2-1) first made the playoffs in 2010 in Gardner's first season as head coach and has been in the postseason every year since then. The Lions had never been past the quarterfinals until last week's 2-1 overtime win over Fellowship Christian.

"We started this four years ago with our seniors," Gardner said.

The Region 8-A champions extended their 13-game winning streak after Wednesday's victory over Macon-based First Presbyterian Day (13-7-1).

"We're not a high scoring team," First Presbyterian Day Coach Joshua Trieste said. "We're a team built on low scoring games. By the time they hit that fourth goal, it was tough to come back."

First Presbyterian's Christian Moore scored the game's first goal in the 11th minute for a 1-0 lead. Cole Morton provided the assist. It was the third goal allowed by Noah Blalock and the Hebron defense in the last 12 games.

"The defense stepped up after that mistake in the back," Gardner said.

That was the last time the Vikings threatened offensively until a pair of free kicks at the top of the box in the 74th and 77th minutes.

Hebron's Pinto scored on a free kick from 30 yards out to tie the game 1-1 in the 30th minute. The goal came after several missed scoring opportunities.

"He ripped one," Gardner said. "Then he gave us the lead with his second goal."

The midfielder scored less than a minute later on a nice assist from Cole Redman in front of the goal.

"We started off down 1-0 after a bad mistake, but those goals lifted us up," Pinto said.

It was the second big game for Pinto in the playoffs. The junior scored the game-winner in overtime against last year's state runner-up Atlanta International School in the second round of the playoffs.

Johnny Hardin extended Hebron's lead right before the half with a goal in the 39th minute on a second assist from Redman.

"That helped tremendously," Gardner said. "We knew we couldn't relax in the second half because they are a good team."

Braden Elmer continued Hebron's scoring surge in the second half with a goal in the 46th minute to push the lead to 4-1.

Pinto added his third goal on an assist from Ben Austin in the 52nd minute.

"They are a great team," Trieste said.