BETHEL — It was a shot Paulo Belato had worked on over and over in practice, and had replayed in his mind again and again.

So with the fate of the Bethel High School boys soccer team’s season riding on his penalty kick Friday in the South-West Conference quarterfinals, Belato simply repeated what he had practiced.

And his practice paid off.

After 100 minutes of soccer failed to produce a winner, Belato’s goal in the penalty-kick shootout, coupled with a crucial save by goalkeeper Liam Ford, lifted the Wildcats to a 1-0 victory over New Milford at Rourke Field.

“I always have the same run-up. Practice makes perfect, let’s just stick with the same,” Belato said. “Straight run-up on the ball and open up at the last second.”

The fourth-seeded Wildcats went on to face top-seeded Barlow in the semifinals Wednesday.

“I’m so proud of the kids because I know how much they put into the game and into the season,” Bethel coach Tony Fernandes said.

It seemed a rather cruel fate for fifth-seeded New Milford after such an epic battle, the latest in a series of exciting clashes recently between these two perennial contenders. Two years ago, Bethel had beaten New Milford in overtime in the SWC semifinals. On opening day this season, the Wildcats edged the Wave 2-1.

“Tonight was tough,” New Milford coach Greg LaCava said. “We knew it was going to be tough coming in. They played us really tough at the beginning of the season. This group has battled hard all year, and they’ve overachieved at times. We battled everybody in the conference top to bottom.”

With an 11-2-3 regular-season record, New Milford will snag one of the top seeds in the upcoming Class LL state tournament.

Both team’s goalkeepers were spectacular during the 100 minutes of scoreless action. Ford made four saves for Bethel (13-2-2), while Brandon Romero made five for New Milford.

TURNING POINT

Each team’s first three shooters scored in the penalty-kick shootout. It was Erik Byrnes, Peter Wunderlich and Sam Bayers for New Milford and Bryan Osebio, Anthony Falstoe and Hideki Morales for Bethel.

Then Ford made a pivotal save on New Milford’s Shane Fedigan — one of the most prolific scorers in the state — to give the Wildcats just the break they needed.

“I just guessed a side,” Ford said with a grin. “I tried to read him when he walked up to the ball, and I guessed the right side.”

Gabriel Carrijo then scored for Bethel, and Ethan Trim answered for New Milford to tie the score at 4-4 heading into Bethel’s fifth and final kick. Belato took it, and booted Bethel into the semifinals.

COMING OF AGE

The seeds of Bethel’s success this year were actually planted last year. After graduating a large senior class from its 2015 SWC championship team, Bethel fielded a young team last year that took its fair share of lumps but managed to squeak into the Class L state tournament as the 25th seed with a 5-7-4 record and upset eighth-seeded Pomperaug in the first round before falling to Masuk in the second round.

A year older and wiser, these Wildcats are hungry for their own taste of success.

“We knew this was a two-year project last year, not really having any seniors and having a young, inexperienced group,” Fernandes said. “We needed a lot of growing up and a lot of learning last year. They’ve really come together and worked hard.”

BETHEL 1, NEW MILFORD 0 (PK)

SWC quarterfinals

NEW MILFORD0 0 0 0 (4) — 0

BETHEL0 0 0 0 (5) — 1

Records: New Milford 11-3-3; Bethel 13-2-2. PK goals: NM—Erik Byrnes, Peter Wunderlich, Sam Bayers, Ethan Trim; Be—Bryan Osebio, Anthony Falstoe, Hideki Morales, Gabriel Carrijo, Paulo Belato. Goalies: NM—Brandon Romero (5 saves); Be—Liam Ford (4 saves).