BURBANK — A signature win against Hoover High along with triumphs over Arcadia and Glendale had the Burroughs High boys' water polo team in first place in the Pacific League and seemingly poised and focused on a league crown.
The Indians faced another team which looked to stay in the league championship race when it took on Crescenta Valley on Thursday afternoon.
Behind a strong defense and sparked by an early lead, the Falcons knocked Burroughs from the ranks of the Pacific League unbeaten with a 12-9 victory in the Indians' pool.
"It's always defense first and that's what we tried to do today, just play good defense," said Crescenta Valley's David Komjathy, who tallied three goals. "A team can't win if you don't allow them to score.
"But you also have to play as a team. There are six players in the field and one in the goal and you all have to play together. I thought we did a pretty good job at doing that today."
Crescenta Valley (17-5, 4-1 in league) — ranked No. 6 in CIF Southern Section Division IV — ends the regular league season Wednesday with a match against Arcadia. Burroughs (12-11, 4-1) finishes against cross-town rival Burbank on Wednesday.
If there is a tie among first-place teams at the end of the regular season, Falcons coach Jan Sakonju said there will be a coin flip to determine the seeding for the league tournament, which will be held Oct. 24 and 26 at Arcadia High. Crescenta Valley lost to Hoover earlier in the season, thus the Falcons, Indians and Tornadoes are all tied for first.
"That's where things could get very interesting," said Sakonju, whose team won titles in 2014 and 15. "Then it will be whoever wins the league tournament will win the league championship."
Burroughs is looking to capture its first league championship since 1994 when it was a member of the Almont League.
"Losing today was a shock," said Indians coach Jacob Cook, whose squad won a Division V championship in 2016. "Just because we lost today doesn't mean all is lost as far as a league title is concerned.
"We just have to regroup, work hard on some things and be ready for the league tournament."
Burroughs fell in the tournament championship against Hoover last season.
Against the Indians, Crescenta Valley was able to spread its scoring around, also getting three goals from Kurtis McNevin and Noah Kim, along with two from Bodoe Wyss and one from Alec Abrahamian.
David Arakelyn had four goals and four steals for Burroughs, while Marko Vucetic and Arthur Stefayn had two apiece and JJ Ambartsumyan had one.
The Falcons jumped out to a 3-1 lead after one quarter. The Falcons increased their advantage to 4-1 with a goal on a skip shot by Wyss with 6:31 left in the second quarter.
"What we tried to do today was to communicate with each other and take away their top guys and force them to rely on other players," Sakonju said. "I think our grade on that today would be mixed, because there were some defensive breakdowns for us."
Down by three, the Indians pushed back and went on a 4-0 run, culminating with a goal by Vucetic with 3:51 left in the second to put Burroughs in front, 5-4. But the Falcons got goals from Kim and McNevin and went into the half up 6-5.
The Falcons increased their advantage to 10-6 with 2:11 left in the third and took a 10-7 lead into the final frame.
Burroughs got to within two of the lead twice in the fourth, at the 5:27 mark, 10-8, and the 1:31 mark, 11-9. But McNevin made good on a five-meter penalty shot with 1:10 to go to ice the match for the Falcons.