EAST MANATEE -- The Braden River defense has been solid for most of the season, so when the Pirates can generate just a little offense, things usually turn out well.
They got that little something extra from Mario Lopez, who scored two goals to lead the host Pirates to a 2-0 victory over Sarasota in opening round play of the boys soccer Class 7A-District 11 tournament on Monday night.
Lopez put the Pirates ahead early when the junior striker scored from an assist from Domenic Aluise less than five minutes into the match from about 18 yards out. He scored his second goal 13 minutes into the second half with an assist from Aluise and Mitchell McCormick.
The Pirates and Sailors split their two regular-season matches. Braden River is on the road Tuesday at North Port for a semifinal-round game.
"There was a collision, the ball just rolled to me, and I ripped it," Lopez said. "You win balls, and you win games. The second goal, I just saw the ball and took a shot. We lost to Sarasota last week because we let our ego get to us and played tentative. "When we are playing good, we keep the ball on the ground. The key for us tonight was teamwork and sharing the ball."
It was the seventh shutout of the year for the Pirates, who improved to 8-4-1 in the district and 9-7-1 overall. Sarasota dropped to 2-15. Braden River has allowed 18 goals all season, including eight against district teams.
The Pirates beat Sarasota 4-0 earlier in the season but lost 1-0 last week. They defeated North Port twice, both times by 3-1 scores.
"They are the higher seed because we lost to Sarasota Thursday night," Braden River head coach JanJay Gehndyu said. "Mario has developed so much and in such a way that he has become very important to this team. He is a rock. We depend on him, and we need him. He played excellent. He can change a play anytime. The possibilities for him are limitless. He is our leading scorer with 10 goals and has five assists."
The Pirates defense was strong in the back end, leaving goalie Ian Crawford with a relatively quiet night. Braden River had eight shots on goal, and Sarasota managed only two.
Keeping the back end strong were Jared Bieber, Alex Cook, Gabe Vasconcellos and Mitchell McCormick.
"They are a solid group and did a great job," Gehndyu said. "They didn't give up a goal and not many shots on goal, which was very important for us. Defense was the key for us tonight as it has been most of the season."
North Port (10-7) overall has allowed 22 goals, including 14 against district teams. Braden River and the Bobcats each ended their regular season losing three out of their last four matches.