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San Juan Hills' magical season ends with loss in finals
IRVINE – San Juan Hills coach Ivan Buich told his players “heads up” as they gathered Saturday around the silver runner-up plaque after the CIF-SS Division 5 boys water polo final.
The Stallions’ underdog season ended with a 12-7 loss against Burroughs of Burbank, but Buich reminded his players to be proud of their journey to the Woollett Aquatics Center.
“Just to even win one (league) game … that was a huge feat for us and now to come to the finals,” the second-year coach said. “They learned a life experience today, too. You have to try hard in everything you do. … They tried their best.”
In a duel of two first-time CIF finalists, third-seeded Burroughs (25-6) used a strong press to disrupt the Stallions’ offense and ignite its counterattack. Burroughs led, 4-0, at halftime, forcing San Juan Hills (18-12) to play catch-up throughout.
Goalie Andrew Mansoor made 12 of his 18 saves in the first half to prevent further damage for the Stallions, who reached the finals and shared the Sea View League title after going winless in league 2013-15.
“Maybe a little bit of jitters,” Buich said of the first half. “You’re coming from never winning anything to all of the sudden (being a finalist) in less than three months. Everyone had butterflies.”
Senior Brent McClain scored San Juan Hills’ first goal with 4:41 left in the third period, trimming the Indians’ lead to 5-1 with a counterattack strike sparked by a steal by freshman Max Miller.
The Stallions cut their deficit to 7-4 with 19 seconds left in the third as McClain converted a penalty drawn by Austin Silveria. But Burroughs’ David Arakelyan scored with five seconds left in the third, sparking a four-goal surge that put the victory away.
McClain tied for the game-high with four goals and also had two assists and three steals. San Juan Hills’ left-hander Ciaran Patrick added two goals off the bench.
“We’re all bummed but our goal was to win one league game,” McClain said. “We took home a league banner and we made it CIF finals. Overall, I think we had a pretty big accomplishment.”
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