BURBANK — A fast start allowed the Crescenta Valley High boys’ water polo team to coast to the finish on Thursday afternoon in the third-place game of the Pacific League championship tournament at Burbank High.
The Falcons allowed just one goal over the first 10 minutes 58 seconds of the match and had an eight-goal cushion going into the fourth, which softened the blow of a run that saw the Indians score the final five goals of the match and six of the last seven, mostly against Crescenta Valley’s reserves, in a 14-10 win.
“I wanted to get the seniors in there ... and we had a big cushion,” said Crescenta Valley Coach Jan Sakonju, who got five goals from Brian Dertli and three apiece from Griffin Harting and Nate Fernandez.
The last time the two teams met on Oct. 2, the Falcons (13-14, 5-3 in league) posted a lopsided 18-4 win. While the Indians made the final score closer on Thursday, even without top scorer Casey Ueno, Burroughs (12-8, 3-5), which clinched the league’s fourth playoff spot, couldn’t keep it much more competitive over the first three quarters.
“Hopefully we can get him back next week for CIF,” Burroughs Coach Danny Garcia said of Ueno, who injured his shoulder. “It’s hard not having your best shooter in there when everybody kind of feeds off of him.”
Dertli scored his second goal of the match on an assist from Fernandez with 1:12 left in the first period to give Crescenta Valley a 4-1 lead going into the second. Fernandez then opened the second with a goal at the 5:52 mark before Dertli reeled off two in a row, the second coming on a man-advantage with the Burroughs goalkeeper excluded for a 7-1 lead
“I hope this is kind of a sign that they’ve learned from the losses that have been in their face,” said Sakonju, whose team lost to Burbank in the opening round on Tuesday. “Playing well here and executing well against a team that we blew out before — but Burroughs has been on the rise and giving everyone really good games and they had nothing to lose — taking control of this game and taking momentum was very important.”
The third quarter saw the Falcons pad their 8-2 halftime lead with a 4-1 run, the final two coming on man-advantage goals by Harting and Omar Trad for a 12-3 lead at the 3:38 mark. Burroughs, which was led by six goals from Oscar Hernandez, spent a good deal of the quarter down a man, as the Indians suffered four ejections, including three on consecutive possessions.
“It makes it really difficult,” Garcia said of the ejections. “And they’ve got some good shooters, but I’m proud of the way they played and that they didn’t stop.”
The Indians ended the third with a buzzer-beater from more than half the length of the pool by Danny Mairena to cut the Falcons’ lead to 13-5 and continued to hack away after Dertli put CV back up, 14-5, with 4:19 left in the game.
Hernandez then scored back-to-back goals, first on an assist from Daniel Silva and then on a feed from Gary Kazanchyan on a counter-attack with 3:42 left.
Inside the final minute, Mairena scored again, Hernandez scored off his own steal and Mairena capped the scoring with 2.4 seconds left.
“There were some lessons learned, I hope, that will continue in the playoffs,” Sakonju said.