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Newport Harbor pulls out victory over Los Alamitos
IRVINE – Newport Harbor and Los Alamitos each appeared to have reasons to give into complacency Saturday night in the finals of the S & R Sport Cup boys water polo tournament.
No. 2 Newport Harbor earlier this week beat Los Alamitos to secure the inside track on capturing the Sunset League title and the better Division 1 playoff seeding.
No. 3 Los Alamitos believed it could have won the league match, and then encountered another obstacle in Round 2 on Saturday. Chandler Jarrels, the Griffins' best player, fouled out less than a minute into the third period.
But neither team gave into feelings of satisfaction at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center. They again dueled deep into the fourth quarter. Newport Harbor scored the final two goals to emerge with a 9-8 victory and a second consecutive S & R title
The Sailors' Dan Stevens scored the winner on the man-advantage with 1:36 left in the fourth quarter on a slick, diagonal pass from Preston Lee.
Stevens was positioned on the far post from Lee, who made a connection with a pass from the perimeter. Stevens redirected the pass into the net for Newport Harbor's seventh man-advantage strike.
Newport Harbor's Curtis Fink later sealed the victory with a steal after a Los Alamitos timeout with 25 seconds left.
So why was Newport Harbor (13-2) so motivated Saturday when it had already defeated Los Alamitos, 8-7, in the bigger match Wednesday?
"I think it's just our mentality, just never back down, never want to quit," Newport Harbor center Andrew Silvers said. "Just keep battling and it will roll your way."
Newport Harbor's Ryan Warde capped a breakout performance by scoring his third goal with 3:09 to tie the score, 8-8. Warde put away an assist from Lee on another power-play chance.
The Sailors finished 7 for 12 with the extra attacker. Silvers drew both two of his five exclusions in the fourth period. Fink drew four exclusions in the game.
"We started coming together as a team and we were figuring it out," Silvers said of power-play. "Just breaking it down one play at a time."
Warde and Stevens each tallied three goals.
Los Alamitos took an 8-7 lead with 4:43 left in the fourth after Kenneth Keller took advantage of a sagging defense to score from the perimeter.
The score was tied, 5-5, after Jarrels fouled out within the first minute of the third period. The senior was excluded and then called for interference on Newport Harbor's free pass on the power-play, giving him his second and third fouls in rapid succession.
But the Griffins hung tough, leading, 7-6, going into the fourth.
Los Alamitos' starter Christian Searing fouled out in the fourth. The Griffins also played the two-day tournament without center, Andrew Reynolds (coach's decision).
“I was really proud of our effort,” Los Alamitos coach Dave Carlson said. “Things could have gone really bad after Wednesday night's (league game), knowing there's no chance of winning league. ... They showed when adversity hit in the middle of the game -- when we lost Chandler -- that they could play through adversity."
Jarrels, Keller, and Max Merrill each scored twice for Los Alamitos (10-4).
Connor Lees capped the scoring in the first period with a goal with 14 seconds left on a cross pass from Justin Cowan. And Cowan ended the second period with a goal with 22 seconds left.
The Griffins led, 3-2, after the first, and, 5-4, at halftime.
"I think Los Alamitos battled," Silvers said. "We knew they would come back. We knew they had a lot of drive. Maybe they feel they got shorted (Wednesday in the league game). ... We held it together."
So why was Los Alamitos so motivated? Carlson said he challenged his team to view Saturday night as the CIF Division 1 final.
"One of the things we said is if we get to the CIF championship game, it would most likely be against Newport," Carlson said. "Pretty much we said, (CIF) is going to be at this pool at 8 p.m. Are we good enough to win a game here at 8 p.m. against a really good team? ... I liked how they competed tonight."
The Griffins struggled on the power play, going 1 for 5. Both goalies played well. Luke Weiser made 12 saves while Wyatt Muller made five of his eight saves in the final period.
In the semifinals, Los Alamitos avenged an earlier loss to Long Beach Wilson with an 8-7 victory. Newport Harbor defeated Northern California power Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton, 11-9.