WOODS CROSS -- As the missed scoring opportunities started to pile up, Davis coach Souli Phongsavath started to get nervous. His Darts were nursing a 1-0 lead, the clock drawing close to expiration, and Copper Hills was on the attack.
In the end, though, Phongsavath's fears were assuaged, as the Darts' single goal was enough to send them past the Grizzlies and into Thursday's state 5-A championship against Brighton at 7 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"I thought they were going to come back to haunt us," Phongsavath said of his team's inability to put into the net even one of its several second-half scoring chances. "Our kids did a great job sticking in there. A lot of teams would have been disappointed not finishing those other goals, but they stayed strong."
The Darts (15-3-1) wasted little time grabbing the lead with a goal in the third minute of the game from junior Mitch Parkinson. The Copper Hills goalkeeper had committed on a shot just prior, and senior John Taylor's pass found Parkinson in perfect position to take advantage of the out-of-place goalie.
"That was probably the hardest chance we had, and we actually finished it," Phongsavath said. "We didn't finish the easier chances we had."
The early goal was a welcome surprise for the Darts, who haven't always been able to charge out of the gates, and it set the tone for the rest of the game.
"We've struggled coming out hard and strong in games this season, especially big games," Phongsavath said. "That was refreshing to see us start off really well."
In contrast to the Darts, who had plenty of scoring chances, the Grizzlies found opportunities hard to come by. Only a handful of times did the Grizzlies ever seriously threaten, and when they did -- most notably in the last 10 minutes of the game, when they had the Darts on their heels -- the stout Davis defense ensured a game-tying goal wasn't to be had.
"It's hard to get in behind us, and I thought Copper Hills kind of struggled a little bit," Phongsavath said. "Our back line is really, really tough."
Even with the stingy defense recording its 10th shutout of the season, Phongsavath acknowledged the Darts didn't play their best game of the season, and he's hoping to have some of the mistakes cleaned up in time for the title game.
"I don't think we could have made it any harder on ourselves," Phongsavath said. "We lacked finishing and some composure in front of the net. It would have been easier if we had finished the three or four really good opportunities we had to score."
Davis, which finished second in Region 1, lost two of its last four regular-season games -- to Weber and Layton, respectively -- and Phongsavath said bouncing back to make it to the title game shows the Darts' character.
"I think it speaks volumes," Phongsavath said. "I'm so proud of the kids for the way we responded. We had a tough loss to Weber, and even the Layton loss was tough for us because they're a rival, even though we were set up where we wanted to be seed-wise."
Davis will face Brighton Thursday for the title. The Tigers, who knocked off Weber 3-1 in the semifinals, beat Davis 4-1 in late March, and the Darts are looking forward to the possibility of getting some redemption.
"We wanted to play them again," Parkinson said. "We know we're going to have to play our best to win."