The top 10 high school games from the 2011-12 season were selected by the sports writers of the Glendale News-Press.
1 Crescenta Valley High boys' soccer defeats Salesian in overtime, 3-2, Feb. 23
The Falcons' thrill ride to their first-ever CIF Southern Section division title contained no shortage of cliffhangers, but none so hair-raising as the quarterfinals of the Division IV playoffs.
After being shut out in the first half, Salesian scored two unanswered second-half goals to take a 2-1 lead with six minutes left in regulation. A lengthy chunk of stoppage time extended Crescenta Valley's hopes of rallying, but thing still looked grim for the Falcons when 12 minutes went by without the tying goal.
Falcons Coach Grant Clark summoned goalkeeper Nick Ruiz to move up and play the field in a last-ditch effort to score the equalizer, a gambit that worked to perfection a few moments later when Ruiz controlled a deflected ball off a throw-in and buried a goal from 15 yards out to force overtime.
"I had to go for it because I had nothing to lose," Ruiz said. "It's about finding a way to win and we have a lot of heart and experience."
Another miraculous bounce gave CV the win in the third minute of overtime, as Alex Berger found Erick Trejo with a corner kick that hit Trejo in the chest before appearing to glance off a Salesian defender and into the net.
"We kept pushing in the end, and our coaches kept driving it," Trejo said. "I could see the ball and it hit me."
2 Hoover boys' water polo gets second life against Palm Desert, 16-15, Nov. 12, 2011
No one seemed to quite know what was going on in the chaotic moments following what was thought to be the final buzzer of the CIF Division IV quarterfinal match at Burbank High, except perhaps for Tornadoes Coach Kevin Witt.
Witt alertly made his way to the scorer's table to protest a timekeeping error that had allowed Palm Desert to run out the shot and game clock simultaneously despite a .13 second differential.
In a surreal scene, Palm Desert was ordered to stop celebrating, get back in the pool and replay the final 30 seconds. It still seemed fairly hopeless for the Tornadoes, as Palm Desert needed only to run off 30 seconds again and defend for .13 seconds. But then the unthinkable happened, as Palm Desert took an ill-advised shot and missed, giving All-Area Player of the Year Hakop Kaplanyan plenty of time to play the hero.
Kaplanyan calmly drilled a goal out of a timeout to send the match to overtime, which quickly became a tug of war. Kaplanyan ended up sinking the game-winner, as well, inside of the final six seconds, sending the Tornadoes to the first semifinal appearance in program history.
"As tired as you're going to be, you just have to give it your best because you never know when it's going to be your last game," Kaplanyan said. "I just [stayed] calm. Every time you're more calm, you get more shots off and you play your own game."
3 Crescenta Valley girls' water polo beats Los Altos in CIF quarterfinals, 14-13, Feb. 18, 2012
Los Altos appeared to have ended the Falcons' season with their first loss in the Division V quarterfinals, but Crescenta Valley played on.
The reward was a second straight trip to the semifinals.
What appeared initially to be a buzzer-beating game-winner by the Conquerors was actually a shot-clock violation, giving the Falcons a little under a minute to come up with their own sudden-death goal.
During a man-advantage, Shannon Hovanesian took an assist from Nayiri Kechichian and scored to end a thrilling match played out over four tense quarters and a pair of overtime sessions prior to the sudden-death stanza.
Crescenta Valley couldn't hold a 7-5 halftime lead or a 12-11 lead near the end of regulation, nor was a 13-12 advantage safe in the first half of overtime, which ended with Crescenta Valley missing a potential go-ahead goal of the side off the cage.