BURBANK — After combining for 19 goals in Tuesday afternoon's Pacific League Tournament semifinal showdown, the Burbank High and Crescenta Valley boys' water polo teams couldn't muster a single tally over the final minute and 32 seconds.
But that didn't make the match any less dramatic, particularly the final 34 seconds.
"It was 34 seconds and it felt like 10 minutes," said Burbank first-year Coach Kristina Garcia.
Both teams had their ups and downs in the span, but it was Burbank that was finally able to run out the clock after a Crescenta Valley gaffe, with Bulldogs co-captain Sean Savoy's tally with 1:32 remaining standing as the game-winner in his team's 10-9 win over the Falcons at Burbank High.
"I am very grateful and extremely proud of my team for pulling this off and it makes me extremely excited to be taking this team to the league finals," said Garcia, whose Bulldogs (13-6, 5-2 in league) clinched second place with the win and will play league-champion Glendale, which clinched an outright title with a 19-9 win over Burroughs, on Thursday at Burbank in the league finals at 5:30 p.m.
In reality, the excitement started before the 34-second mark, but the true chaos came then.
With just over a minute left, Crescenta Valley's Antonio Camarillo had a point-blank, match-tying attempt blocked by Burbank goalie Derek Baer. Baer had a number of point-blank stops, including two on one possession in the first half, and 10 stops all together in an overall excellent performance.
With 40 seconds remaining, the Falcons had possession and Falcons Coach Jan Sakonju called a timeout. But almost immediately out of the break, the Falcons botched the play and Burbank notched a steal.
Out of a Burbank timeout, the Bulldogs' possession lasted mere seconds when they were called for an offensive infraction, but CV's ensuing possession was turned over on a two-meter violation.
Then, Savoy had a golden opportunity on the left wing to score a game-clinching goal, but missed badly and the Falcons had one final chance — albeit a small one with seven seconds left.
"I was a little too energetic and excited," said Savoy, who had a pair of goals, three assists and a steal. "I could've lost us the game."
Sakonju called his third and final timeout to go over a final play, but his team immediately lined up incorrectly. Thus, Sakonju called another timeout, only he had already called the maximum three, resulting in an automatic turnover.
"They didn't set up properly so I tried to call a fourth timeout," said Sakonju, who admitted he lost count.
Seven seconds later, the final frenzied 34 seconds were finally done, the Bulldogs were celebrating and the Falcons were in stunned silence.
"We were both making stupid mistakes," Savoy said. "I made a dumb mistake. We were lucky that their coach called that last timeout."
For Burbank, the sixth-ranked team in CIF Southern Section Division V, it was the second victory this year over the Falcons, ranked seventh, after besting them, 9-7, in overtime on Oct. 4 and the third overall dating back to last season.
"This is the third game in a row that we've lost to Burbank and I can't stand it," Sakonju said. "They are clearly the better team today."
At the onset, the Falcons were the better team Tuesday, with goals by Griffin Harting, Nate Fernandez and Brian Dertli pushing CV to an early 3-1 advantage.
Burbank would tie the match at 3 and 6, but wouldn't finally get a lead until 49 seconds remained in the third quarter when Dante Nazarian scored off a Savoy assist to make it 7-6. Twenty-three seconds later, though, CV had tied it right back up when Dertli scored off a Daniel Park pass.
CV retook the lead at 9-8 on another Dertli goal off a Park pass with 4:41 to go, but the Falcons' offense was held scoreless thereafter.
"Our offense shuts down. Our offense tends to go in a lull," Sakonju said. "That happened the first time we played them and it happened again this time. It just starts getting stymied and nobody wants to step up and be the guy."
Savoy assisted Daniel Gonzalez on the latter's only goal of the day to tie the match with 2:31 remaining at 9. Then with 1:32 to go, Savoy scored the game-winner off a pass from Patrick Vertani.
"Their defense was based around Zach [Card], so it gave everybody else a chance to score," Savoy said. "I was [thinking] they're dropped on Zach, they're dropped on Dante, I'm gonna shoot it. It ended up that I scored the goal — the last one we'd score."
For the Falcons, Dertli had a match-high four goals, with Camarillo adding two and Fernandez adding a goal and five steals. Park had four assists and goalie Robert Menke had nine saves and two steals.
Card, Burbank's leading scorer, was shut out, while Shane Pentkowski and Nazarian shared the team lead with three apiece, while Vertani also added a tally, along with two steals and two assists.
But it was the defensive-minded Savoy whose second and final goal proved to be the biggest.
Said Garcia: "Today was his day to shine."