PHOENIX - Phoenix Cortez scored three goals in the second half and beat Palo Verde 4-0 Wednesday night, eliminating the Titans from the Division III state semifinals.

It is the third time in four seasons the Colts have eliminated the Titans from the playoffs.

Cortez bounced Palo Verde from last year's Division III state tournament in the quarterfinals and topped the Titans in penalties in the 4A-II state final in 2010.

The third-seeded Colts grabbed a 1-0 lead over the seventh-seeded Titans in the 22nd minute at Phoenix Arcadia High School with a goal from Zaid Moreno.

Besides that score, Palo Verde's defensive effort in the first half stalled the Colts attack.

"For our defense to step up and be down 1-0 going into the half is a huge accomplishment," Palo Verde first-year coach Mario Gastellum said.

Cortez began the second half looking to pressure the Titans defense, and the experienced, defending Division III state champions were able to take their time and pass the ball to open shooters.

The Colts struck again in the 50th minute and took a 2-0 lead. Then, five minutes later, Cortez scored off a rebounded shot to virtually seal the game.

Ten minutes after that, Roberto Valenzuela fired the ball off the inside of the post. The ball danced along the goal line and was ruled a goal. It was Valenzuela's second goal of the night.

"They played their game; we let them play their game," Gastellum said. "I think experience made the biggest difference in this game."

Despite being shut out, Palo Verde had a few opportunities to score. The Titans were unable to connect on a penalty kick and could not muster enough shots on target.

"Us not taking advantage of the few opportunities that we had, we needed to finish, and we just didn't do it," said Gastellum.

Freshman goalkeeper Johnny Ramirez finished the night with 16 saves for Palo Verde.

The Titans had three seniors this season. Gastellum is counting on his squad to be able to make it back to the playoffs next year.

"The outlook for next year is good if the boys commit to working out and building on what we have in the offseason," he said. "I think that is the most crucial time in any program. It's what you do in the offseason. Hopefully they dedicate themselves to working out and to building on what they have."

Contact reporter Chuck Constantino at or 954-0859. On Twitter: @CConstan3 or @azprepstar