Garrett Zaan is the center of attention now at two meters for the Huntington Beach High boys’ water polo team.
It makes sense. Center Quinten Osborne, last year’s Daily Pilot Dream Team Player of the Year, graduated and went to UCLA. Zaan is a senior now, so it’s his time to shine.
“I’m more playing hole set, instead of posting up,” Zaan said. “It’s cool stepping back in there as a two-meter guy.”
Zaan did more than step back into two meters Thursday night against Corona del Mar. He also stepped up, scoring a team-best four goals and adding two steals.
The Oilers pulled away in the second half to earn a 12-10 victory in the second round of the South Coast Tournament. With the win, Huntington advances to play No. 4-seeded Harvard-Westlake in the quarterfinals at 6 p.m. Friday at CdM.
It will be the third meeting of the season already between the Oilers (5-4) and the Wolverines. Huntington Beach got there with a strong effort against CdM.
“I think the first quarter we set the tone pretty well, set the rhythm of the game,” Oilers coach Sasa Branisavljevic said. “We just carried that to the second quarter. We got caught on a couple of drives and ejections, the counterattack is something that CdM does an excellent job with. They were able to stay in the game until the very end, but I think we were better today.”
CdM grabbed its only lead of the game in the first quarter, when Will Klein scored a power-play goal assisted by Hayden Roletter.
But the Oilers answered with a pair of goals from Zaan, then senior Jake Cavano scored off a foul outside five meters to give Huntington Beach a 3-1 advantage late in the quarter.
“I expected [CdM] to go pretty hard, especially in their home pool and having their home crowd,” Zaan said. “I knew we had to really go all-out against these guys … You know, we’ve played against them since the 12s and everything. We all know the players on their team. We kind of knew their game plan.”
CdM tied the score at 3 early in the second, when Mitchell Cooper scored a penalty shot converted by teammate Tanner Pulice. The Oilers again responded. Cavano made plays, scoring off a foul, then earning a steal and drawing an exclusion. Zaan put away the rebound goal, giving Huntington Beach a 5-3 advantage.
Huntington Beach led 10-6 entering the fourth, before CdM got a pair of goals from Cooper, the second coming on six-on-five, to pull within 10-8 with 5:18 remaining. But the Sea Kings couldn’t get closer.
Zaan led everyone with four goals, while Curtis Jarvis had three for the winners, who also beat Granite Hills 20-4 in the first round of the tournament. Spencer Stanbridge made eight saves.
Branisavljevic said his team looks forward to another game against Harvard-Westlake. The teams split their two meetings at the Elite Eight tournament last weekend, but the Oilers were without seniors Andy Tucker and Quinn Simpson, who both played Thursday.
“We are prepared,” he said. “We know what their strengths are, and we know where to look for their weaknesses.”
Cooper and Henry Wilde each led CdM (2-2) with three goals, while Pulice scored twice and Roletter and Will Klein scored one each. Sophomore keeper Harrison Smith made four saves, including one on a penalty shot, as senior goalie Will Snyder (groin) is still out of action.
“Huntington Beach is a good team,” CdM coach Kareem Captan said. “They got us this time, but we’re looking forward to seeing them in the beginning of October [in a nonleague game Oct. 2 at CdM].”
The Sea Kings, who beat Dos Pueblos 12-10 in their opener, play San Clemente at 5 p.m. Friday at CdM.
CdM cannot make top eight in the tournament now, but can still outperform its tournament seeding of 12th.
“I like where my guys are at right now,” Captan said. “I think we’re making some pretty obvious mistakes with the ball on the offensive side, not being patient enough, not finding the right shots on cage. Defensively, we’re just missing a lot of assignments. We fall asleep a little bit, and it costs us goals. Ultimately, we’re going to learn from that.
“The most impressive thing for me is that our guys will never give up. They just won’t stop, and I love that about them.”
No. 3-seeded Newport Harbor also advanced to the South Coast Tournament quarterfinals after beating Dana Hills 15-4 in another second-round game Thursday night.
The Sailors, who beat Tesoro 18-3 in the first round, play Santa Margarita in the quarterfinals at 6 p.m. Friday at Newport Harbor High.
Laguna Beach narrowly lost to host Foothill, 9-8, in another second-round game. The Breakers play Riverside Poly at 5 p.m. Friday at Foothill.