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MARTIN KLEIN, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER; TEXT BY DAN ALBANO, OCVARSITY.COM
Corona del Mar defeated Newport Harbor, 7-6, in the teams' Battle of the Bay water polo match Saturday.

CdM holds off late challenge from Newport Harbor

STAFF WRITER

NEWPORT BEACH – Corona del Mar center Brendan Hack felt his team got a bit lucky Saturday night but when it comes to the Battle of the Bay water polo match, the sides welcome any and all advantages.

And the visiting No. 3 Sea Kings also created plenty of opportunities before their duel at No. 7 Newport Harbor ended in dramatic fashion before an overflow crowd of about 1,200.

Newport Harbor’s Gavin Kunkle drew a penalty shot at center with 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter, but the Sailors’ potential overtime-forcing 5-meter toss blasted off a side bar and out as Corona del Mar held on for a 7-6 victory in a back-and-fourth match.

“We got pretty lucky at the end there but we knew we’d pull through,” said Hack, who scored two of his game-high three goals in the fourth.

“It’s obviously the biggest game of the regular season. It feels so good to win.”

Even after Cole Brosnan’s narrow miss and Jon Polos’ rebound for Corona del Mar, the waters stayed choppy. Corona del Mar called its final timeout with four seconds left, but Newport Harbor’s Nic Rimlinger nearly pulled off a steal and goal, but his strike was waved off because time expired.

“Great atmosphere,” Newport Harbor coach Ross Sinclair said of the match, which drew numerous sign-carrying fans. “If we get Sport Science (of ESPN) on this (shot by Brosnan), I think it’s going to be an eighth of an inch (off). We should hire them.”

Corona del Mar (6-3) cracked the Newport Harbor (6-8) defense just enough by passing into center early in possessions to beat the drop and feed its strength. Hack scored from center off an early-entry pass by Will Rodosky to give the Sea Kings a 7-5 lead with 4:07 left in the fourth.

Newport Harbor dropped off Rodosky throughout, but he made the Sailors pay with four assists, including three on early-entries.

“That’s one of the things we’ve been working on,” Hack said. “I still don’t think we’ve played our best game yet but we’ll get there.”

Sophomore Jason Grew, one of the Sailors’ emerging young players, trimmed the Sea Kings’ lead to 7-6 with a power-play strike with 3:46 left off a pass from Brosnan. But the Sailors finished 1 for 6 on the power-play against Matt Moran (nine saves).

“Overall, we played great,” Sinclair said. “We got a lot of young kids I thought matured so fast over this week.”

Brosnan, a lefty-handed junior, skipped in a side-armed, direct shot from 7 meters for the game's first goal and helped the Sailors lead, 2-1, after the first period.

Newport Harbor took its final lead, 3-2, on a backhanded strike from center by Kunkle with 3:19 left in the second period.

But Rodosky helped the Sea Kings seize brief control by playing an impressive final two minutes of the opening half. He made two early-entry passes into 2 meters that led to goals by Hack and Tamir Avital. The junior also capped a counterattack with a slick push-shot for a goal with 29 seconds left in the second period as the Sea Kings led, 5-3, at halftime.

Newport Harbor responded with two goals in the third to tie the score, 5-5. And again, Brosnan played a key role. He assisted a counterattack strike by sophomore John Rankin and also scored from the perimeter against a drop defense to knot the score with 4:41 left in the third.

As the fourth period began, the game announcer said, "This is why we wake up at 5 a.m. every morning." Both teams pushed with that desire to the end.

Hack led Corona del Mar by drawing an exclusion early in the fourth period and netting the go-ahead goal by one-timing a cross pass in front of the cage with 5:52 left. Corona del Mar finished 1 for 4 with the extra attacker.

About two minutes later, Hack scored from center again on an early-entry pass by Rodosky, giving the Sea Kings a 7-5 lead. But Newport Harbor didn't go quickly.

Corona del Mar won the teams' Battle of the Bay game for a second consecutive season. Both teams will be in action this coming weekend at the S & R Sport Cup in Irvine.

At the Villa Park Classic:

El Toro 16, Damien of La Verne 13: The Chargers fell in the semifinals to top-seeded Sir Francis Drake of San Anselmo but rebounded to take third place. Sir Francis Drake captured the 32-team tournament, defeating Division 2 contender San Marcos, 10-7, in the final.

In nonleague:

Harvard-Westlake of Studio City 18, Huntington Beach 5: Ben Hallock scored five goals to lead the host Wolverines, who led, 13-1, after the first.

Contact the writer: dalbano@ocregister.com


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