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Burbank misses upset chance

Boys' water Polo: CV able to hol on for 14-13 win in league opener.

October 05, 2011|By Grant Gordon, grant.gordon@latimes.com
(Roger Wilson Staff…)

LA CRESCENTA — There were plot lines aplenty as the Crescenta Valley High boys' water polo team, the three-time reigning Pacific League champion, began defense of its league crown against visiting Burbank on Tuesday afternoon.

A season removed from a CIF Southern Section Division V semifinal appearance, the Falcons found themselves reeling from graduations and entering league with an overall record far below .500.

Just four days removed from first-year Burbank Coach Adam Wright stepping down from the Bulldogs helm, Burbank found itself with its third coach in less than a year leading an undefeated squad into league with aspirations of defeating the Falcons for the first time in program history.

All the subplots came down to a Crescenta Valley game of keep-away as the clock ran down and a Burbank prayer with 1.5 seconds left that went unanswered, as a Bulldogs rally came a goal short and the Falcons began their latest title defense with a dramatic 14-13 victory.

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"We saw it as an opportunity to show ourselves to the rest of the league to say we're here and we're ready to play," said Falcons goalie Manny Martinez, who had 19 saves, including three point-blank stops in the second half. "Burbank was a serious step."

Burbank (13-1), which came in with two nonleague tournament victories to its credit, was under the guidance of James Berman, the team's interim and junior varsity coach, and rallied from an 8-4 halftime deficit to cut the score to its final tally when Bulldog Zach Card scored with 30 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, the Falcons ran the clock down before a last-second shot was saved by Bulldogs goalie Derek Baer.

"The key was to start controlling the ball," said Falcons Coach Jan Sakonju, whose team ran down the shot clock on each of its final three possessions.

After a Berman timeout, Baer set up at mid-pool after the referee gave him the ball. The clock was started and the horn blew before Baer could do anything, resulting in a hearty roar from the Falcons fans. But it was premature as the official had never whistled play to resume. When he finally did, Baer got off a pass, but a shot couldn't be taken before the final horn signaled an end to the game.

"It was a nailbiter and a little closer than we thought it would be," Martinez said, "but we pulled out a win."

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