VISALIA — Christian Ibarra had just enough time to stop and assess his options.
The Golden West High boys soccer standout could have dribbled up the line or sent a cross to a teammate.
Instead, Ibarra launched a hooking shot over two defenders and well out of the goalkeeper's reach into the upper left corner of the net for the first of his three goals that led the Trailblazers, elevated to No. 2 in The Bee's Central Section rankings, past No. 5 El Diamante 4-0 on Monday in a showdown for first place in the West Yosemite League.
"The difference in this game was Christian," said Golden West coach John McCaw. "He was unbelievable. That first goal was of a quality you don't see in high school kids. He played fantastic in a big game."
The win gives the Trailblazers (15-2-1, 8-1) a half-game lead on the Miners (15-2-2, 7-1) in the WYL and a leg up in the race for the No. 1 playoff seed in Division II. They meet again to close the regular season Feb. 14 at El Diamante.
While Ibarra scored in the seventh, 49th and 56th minutes, it was Golden West's defense that co-headlined the show. Defenders Jose Chavez, Ricardo Gonzalez, Scott Hickam and Carlos Valencia held El Diamante's Joey Chica (18 goals, 11 assists) and Francisco Medina (19 goals, nine assists) in check, and goalkeeper Ramon Zarco scooped up the few balls that weren't cleared.
"If our defense keeps it up like they did today, we're going to be a dangerous team," said Ibarra, whose school is 0 for 5 all-time in section finals, the most recent loss coming in 2010. "We have a pretty good chance of going all the way."
The Miners gave up two goals in the first 10 minutes en route to having their 11-game winning streak snapped.
"They scored quick and took the air out of us," El Diamante coach Augie Gonzalez said. "We couldn't recover."
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