Photo by Dan Albano, Orange County Register/SCNG
Huntington Beach center Quinten Osborne loses grip of the ball against a swarm of Harvard-Westlake defenders in the finals of the South Coast Tournament on Saturday. The Wolverines posted a 9-5 victory at Newport Harbor.

Huntington Beach falls in South Coast Tournament final


NEWPORT BEACH – Early-season tournament titles are desirable in boys water polo but in-pool progress is an equally valuable commodity.

That’s how Huntington Beach viewed its finish at the South Coast Tournament on Saturday.

The Oilers, ranked second in Orange County, reached the final but fell to impressive, top-seeded Harvard-Westlake of Studio City, 9-5, at Newport Harbor.

“We really progressed a lot and tried to be more physical and have a more aggressive mindset,” Oilers senior center Quinten Osborne said.

Harvard-Westlake (13-0), ranked No. 1 in CIF-SS Division 1, closed the final with 5-0 run that started with just more than two minutes left in the third period.

Playing without U.S. youth team center Felix Brozyna-Vilim (knee injury), Harvard-Westlake erased a 5-4 lead by the Oilers (9-3) with three goals before the end of the third, including two on counterattacks.

The Wolverines used a heavy drop defense to blanket Osborne, limit exclusions (Harvard-Westlake was called for only three) and force shots from the perimeter.

Harvard-Westlake goalie Sam Krutonog, a USC commit, responded to the challenge by making a season-high 19 saves. The senior made 12 saves in a first-half that ended tied, 3-3.

There were plenty of positives for the Oilers, who likely reached the final for the first time. The Wolverines beat the Oilers, 10-3, last weekend in the semifinals of the S & R Elite 8.

Huntington Beach also played arguably its best game of the season in the semifinals, cooling off Corona del Mar, 12-8.

The Oilers led the Sea Kings, who beat county juggernaut Mater Dei in the quarterfinals Friday, 10-3, after the third period. Patrick Saunders made 12 saves, including a penalty shot. Saunders also blocked a penalty in the final.

Ethan Wojciechowski scored five goals, including two on a power-play that finished 5 for 8.

“We’re definitely progressing,” Huntington Beach coach Sasa Branisavljevic said. “We ran out of steam toward the end and Harvard capitalized off the mistakes we made. … Krutonog did a phenomenal job. He pulled the curtain down.”

Said Harvard-Westlake coach Brian Flacks of Krutonog, “He’s uber-talented.”

The Wolverines will be seeking their third title of the fall when they play in the S & R Sport SoCal tournament in Irvine in Oct. 7-8. But they impressively claimed the South Coast without Brozyna-Vilim but just like the Oilers, remain focused on their season goals.

"Everyone knows that their (season) goal is not to win the South Coast Tournament," Flacks said. "Obviously, it's a very nice and prestigious tournament to win and a challenge ... but we got to get back to work.

"We (really) have a lot of work to do. Being down Felix this weekend, the team looked at it as an opportunity, an opportunity to play and get better." 

In the third-place match:

No. 3 Orange Lutheran 11, No. 5 Corona del Mar 10: Hannes Daube skipped in a power-play goal off the bottom of the crossbar with 1:05 left in the fourth to lift the Lancers (9-1), who fell in the semifinals to Harvard-Westlake, 12-8. Corona del Mar goalie Matt Moran made 15 saves to cap a strong day.

In the fifth-place match:

No. 1 Mater Dei 15, No. 9 Newport Harbor 8: The Sailors trailed by one goal in the second period but the Monarchs used a 5-0 run in the second half to pull away. Cole Brosnan scored four goals for the Sailors while Jackson Seybold netted four for Mater Dei.

In the seventh-place match:

No. 4 Foothill 12, Agoura 9: Joe Molina and Zane Scott each scored four goals for the Knights while Kyle Son added three assists.

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