SOMERSET - It was a play the North Star boys soccer team has had success with all season.
As it turns out, that's all the Cougars needed to survive a pesky Chestnut Ridge squad.
Logan Zellem snagged a throw-in from Ryan Horner out of mid-air from 22 yards out and put it in the back of the net early in the second half to help lead North Star to a 3-0 win over the Lions in the District 5 Class A championship Thursday night at Somerset Area High School.
It's the Cougars' first title since 2000.
"We've had success with that set piece and that's something we practice over and over and over again, so those guys deserved to cash in on that," North Star coach Chad Duryea said. "I've said it before - [Zellem is] an all-state caliber player. That was a fantastic strike. And once we got the momentum going, we wanted to keep it going."
And Duryea's team didn't disappoint.
Jacob Scrimmager and Luke Thomas each added late tallies for the Cougars (18-3).
Clayton Shaffer notched his third shutout of the playoffs, making five saves.
"Clayton Shaffer is doing fantastic in the playoffs," Duryea said. "Not only is he saving stuff, but his leadership back there, constantly encouraging our guys."
The Lions (15-6) had their fair share of opportunities to score. Most notably was Steven Frankenberry's attempt that he poked wide with 26 minutes remaining.
"We had chances the first half, and even had some in the second," Chestnut Ridge coach Allen Hainsey said. "Frankenberry had a couple real good chances. Just tonight, it wouldn't fall for us. We didn't have the soccer luck with us tonight."
Chestnut Ridge controlled the scoring zone for much of the first half, but really couldn't get any good looks or put any tough shots on net.
"We played with them the first half," Hainsey said. "We played pretty even with them. We had chances to score. They came out in the second half and outplayed us. I give them credit. They are a heckuva team. We gave them everything we had."
The best scoring chance in the first half for either team came with under 20 seconds left.
North Star's Austin Shaulis sent in a mild crossing pass from just inside the left side of the box.
As the ball bounced around on a few clearing attempts, Shaulis was gift-wrapped a clear shot from point-blank range. His laser sailed high and time expired.
"We just went in at halftime and honestly all took a deep breath," Duryea said. "We were like, 'OK, let's play some North Star soccer now.'"
"They got the momentum and we couldn't get it back out of our end," Hainsey said. "They do a great job of holding possession of the ball."
North Star will play the District 9 runner-up - Brookville - in the first round of the PIAA playoffs on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined later this weekend by officials.
SCORE BY HALVES
Chestnut Ridge 0 0 - 0
North Star 0 3 - 3
Second half: 1, NS-Zellem (Horner), 44:17; 2, NS-Scrimmager (unassisted), 61:51; 3, NS-Thomas (unassisted).
Goalkeepers: Chestnut Ridge, Fungaroli (10-7); North Star, Shaffer (5-5).
Records: Chestnut Ridge (15-6); North Star (18-3).