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Burbank nearly pulls off upset, 10-9

Girls' water polo: Bulldogs play well against No. 1-seeded Crescenta Valley in first round of league tournament.

February 08, 2011|By Gabriel Rizk, gabriel.rizk@latimes.com

BURBANK HIGH — When Pasadena High beat Glendale in the first semifinal matchup of Tuesday's Pacific League Girls' Water Polo Tournament, all the Crescenta Valley had to do to clinch the outright league championship was get past Burbank in the second semifinal of the evening.

As it turned out, there was nothing easy about the Falcons' route to their second title in a row, as the host Bulldogs literally took the match down to the last shot and made the Falcons work as hard as they've had to for a league win this season, 10-9.

"I give them a lot of credit; they played hard inspired [water polo] and created some matchup problems for us," said Falcons Coach Pete Loporchio, whose team (24-3, 7-0 in league) will still have enough points to claim the league title outright by virtue of its regular-season sweep of league, even if it should lose to Pasadena in the tournament final at 6 p.m. on Thursday at Burbank. "We just told the girls we're in a position where everybody is gunning for you so you've got to be ready to play."

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Christine Cho scored the Falcons' final goal of the match on a deep perimeter shot with 2:23 left in the fourth period to provide a crucial two-goal lead at 10-8. But the Bulldogs' defense held strong from there.

Janna Ayvazyan brought Burbank (19-7, 3-4) within 10-9 on a rebound of Jordan Card's miss with 52 seconds left, setting up a dramatic final pair of possessions to close the game. Burbank made yet another defensive stand under pressure; as goalkeeper Sarah Tubert notched her 11th save of the match on an outside attempt by Breanna Lawton with 18 seconds left.

In the end, it was Crescenta Valley's defense that won the game, though, holding the Bulldogs without a shot on their final possession, on which they played a quick pass into the set and even drew a foul but could never find an opening in the coverage.

"Coming into this game, we wanted to get into the early offense before they could drop, because we knew they were going to drop down on our hole/set, so we wanted to get up in the fast break and get those one-on-one opportunities," said Burbank Coach Carlos Pelayo, whose team will play Glendale for third place at 5 p.m. on Thursday. "I had a time out [on the final possession], but we had the opportunities there. Just credit to the girls, they kept fighting and they kept going after it."

Crescenta Valley never trailed, but it also never shook the pesky Bulldogs, and its biggest lead was three goals, which it enjoyed on two occasions.

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