ARCADIA — While it ultimately took care of business on Wednesday, the Crescenta Valley High boys’ water polo team hardly rose to the occasion in its regular-season Pacific League finale at archrival Arcadia.
Rather the Falcons seemed a bit too content to sink to the level of their competition, as they failed to get much separation against a league-winless Apaches team that was almost completely inactive offensively through most of the first half and played Arcadia virtually even in the second half for a 10-4 win.
The victory clinched a second-place tie in league with Burbank, which defeated Burroughs, 13-12, on Wednesday and the Falcons (12-13, 4-2 in league) will enter the league championship tournament Tuesday as the No. 3 seed by virtue of an earlier head-to-head loss to Burbank.
Crescenta Valley Coach Jan Sakonju said his team will need to correct its slow-starting ways when it meets the Bulldogs in the first round of the tournament.
“There are many little things they could have done better and hopefully they recognize that,” said Sakonju, whose team is ranked seventh in CIF Southern Section Division V. “I’m actually tired of telling them the same thing over and over again.
“They shot very carelessly and the problem is this is a recurring problem — slow starts, really becoming overconfident, I think it really shows a lack of maturity on our part and a lack of instinct to finish your goals.”
The Falcons had their first five shots on goal stopped by Apaches goalkeeper Spencer Norconk and didn’t score until Norconk was actually forced to vacate the cage on an ejection, opening up a shot for Nate Fernandez at the 3:18 mark of the first quarter for the first goal of the match.
Crescenta Valley scored again 22 seconds later on a Ben Horton steal played up the pool to Fernandez before Arcadia (0-6 in league) made it 2-1 with 2:14 to play in the first. That would be the only goal Arcadia would score in the first half, but the Falcons, who led, 4-1, by the end of the first, only had a five-goal lead at halftime.
Brian Dertli scored on a turnaround with 3:25 to play and Andrew Lockwood converted on a counter-attack assisted by Horton at the 2:39 mark, but the Falcons also had a one-on-none on a counter-attack blocked and a shot on goal with Norconk once again ejected hit the post, as they went two for nine from the field in the second quarter.
“We had some clear scoring opportunities,” Sakonju said. “It’s frustrating, but this is how we played when we played Burbank. [We] made the goalie look fantastic.”
The teams swapped single goals in the third period, but despite fourth-quarter goals by Kevin Fry and Gary Chang, the Apaches never got closer than 9-4, as the Falcons got fourth-quarter tallies from Griffin Harting, James Porcell and Daniel Park to keep their cushion.
“We might not have been focused enough on this game, we might have underestimated them and the shots weren’t dropping,” Harting said. “I feel we can [turn it on in the tournament]. We’ve done it before, we can do it again.”