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No. 2 Newport Harbor edges Los Alamitos
HUNTINGTON BEACH – Newport Harbor's demanding week ramped up a few notches Wednesday night in a boys water polo match with far-reaching playoff implications.
The No. 2 Sailors encountered resilient No.3 Los Alamitos, and played most of the match without emerging left-hander Mitch Mendoza, who was sick.
But Sailors responded to the challenge. Goalie Wyatt Muller made five of his 10 saves in the final period to help Newport Harbor seize control of the Sunset League with an 8-7 victory at Ocean View.
Neither team scored in the fourth quarter. Attacker Preston Lee notched the winner with 19 seconds left in the third period, snapping a 7-7 tie with a perimeter strike coming out of a timeout.
Los Alamitos' best chance to tie came out of a timeout with 1:22 left in the fourth. But Kenneth Keller's perimeter shot from the point hit the crossbar.
The score was tied seven times throughout the match.
Both squads were well aware of the Division 1 playoff implications for the Sunset League champion. One theory is that the Sunset League champion will be placed on the opposite side of the playoff bracket from two-time defending champion Mater Dei, which is showing no signs of slowing.
Newport Harbor (9-2, 1-0) also grabbed the important victory despite entering the game with little momentum. The Sailors lost on the road Tuesday against Loyola of Los Angeles, 11-8.
"I was pleased with our guys because they held it together," Newport Harbor coach Robert Lynn said of Wednesday's triumph. "Loyola gave us a lesson on preparing for a game, going into a game strong, being emotional, and keeping together and being courageous.
"And that was the same thing we had to (do against Los Alamitos). ... This was for (the league title)."
Muller did his part in the final period. The senior blocked a power-play chance by Los Alamitos (7-3, 0-1) and helped the Sailors hold the Griffins scoreless for the final 10:18.
"He was the Great Wall of China," Lynn said of Muller, "keeping the Mongolian herd out."
Dan Stevens and Curtis Fink each scored three goals to pace the Sailors' offense. Stevens scored all three of his goals on the Newport Harbor power-play, which finished 4 for 8.
On Tuesday, the Sailors went 4 for 13 with the extra attacker, and also missed a penalty. On Wednesday, Fink converted a penalty chance he drew in the second.
Chandler Jarrels scored two of his three goals in the third for the Griffins. Los Alamitos finished 3 for 6 on the man-advantage. Goalie Luke Weiser added eight saves for the Griffins.
The challenging week for the Sailors continues with the S & R Sport Cup in Irvine on Friday and Saturday. The tournament attracts top teams from Southern California such as Los Alamitos and Corona del Mar along with the best from Northern California, including Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton and Miramonte.
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