Aliso Niguel goalie Evan Johnston blocks a shot by Oaks Christian during the CIF-SS Division 3 championship game Saturday at Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine. Oaks Christian took the title, 9-7. (Photo by bittany Murray, Daily News/ SCNG)

Aliso Niguel runs out of steam at end


IRVINE – Halfway through the fourth quarter, with the game tied at seven, something had to give in the matchup of titleless teams in the CIF-SS Division 3 final. Neither Oaks Christian nor Aliso Niguel had championship experience, or had even reached the semifinals before this year, but it was Lions who stepped up in the waning minutes.

Two goals in the final three minutes lifted Oaks Christian over the Wolverines, 9-7, for the Lions’ first water polo section championship.

“It hurts; it hurts really bad,” Aliso Niguel senior attacker Nicholas Ure said. “It's still a great achievement for all of us, but I think next year it's going to leave a little burn.”

Despite the championship loss, Coach Jon Puffer said he is proud of how the Aliso Niguel program has grown in the last four years. In 2013, the Wolverines lost 19 games and went winless in league.

“They’ve led the way,” Puffer said about his senior class. “We’ve just got progressively better each year, and I am really excited they got to experience this.”

Oaks Christian dominated possession in the first quarter, but a penalty shot goal by Skylar Lee and a fast-break goal by Brendan Nugent gave the Wolverines an early 2-0 advantage, and a 2-1 lead through a quarter.

The Lions quickly knotted the score at two in the second, with Jacob Ehrhardt’s first of a game-high five goals 30 seconds into the quarter. Just more than a minute later, Oaks Christian took its first lead with a fast-break goal by Nikola Ilic.

Trent Kalinak’s two second-quarter goals kept Aliso Niguel in striking distance, but four Oaks Christian goals gave the Lions a 5-4 lead at halftime.

Collin Knight scored with a shot that deflected off goalie Adrian Weinberg and the left post to tie the score at five, but Ehrhardt’s third and fourth goals kept Oaks Christian in the lead.

Another goal by Lee and one by Kyle Corrigan tied the score at seven before Oaks Christian dashed Aliso Niguel’s championship hopes with back-to-back goals.

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