Corona del Mar High School made its point--and points--early Saturday and moved one step closer to defending its Southern Section 4-A water polo title.
Led by Chris Oeding and Grant Gustafson, the Sea Kings opened an early lead and then held off Long Beach Wilson, 13-9, at Belmont Plaza.
The victory puts second-seeded Corona del Mar in the Southern Section final for the fourth consecutive season. The Sea Kings will play No. 1-seeded Sunny Hills for the title on Wednesday.
Corona del Mar wasted little time in winning Saturday, scoring 3 goals with its first 3 shots. It was a change for the Sea Kings, who have been a slow-starting team most of the season.
At one point in the first half, the Sea Kings had taken 7 shots--and scored 5 goals.
“We wanted to get off to a fast start today,” Corona del Mar Coach John Vargas said. “It gave us confidence. With the lead, we were able to take our time on offense.”
The Bruins (17-3) pulled to within 4-3 by the end of the first quarter as Chris Kredell scored 2 of his 3 goals. However, Corona del Mar got 2 second-quarter goals from Oeding and led by 2 at the half.
The third quarter would follow a similar pattern. Corona del Mar led by as many as 4 goals twice, but Long Beach Wilson continued to come back.
“We weren’t worried about the way they came back,” Vargas said. “They were getting some lucky goals. We were getting solid goals and we knew those would stand up.”
Gustafson scored his fourth goal of the match with 2 minutes 6 seconds left to give Corona del Mar a 12-8 lead. Oeding followed 20 seconds later with his fifth goal for a 13-8 advantage.
The Sea Kings also got 2 goals from Hagen Grantham, one of which came from mid-pool with 6 seconds left in the third quarter.
“We got good performances from everybody today,” Vargas said. “Guys like Grantham and (Greg) Head really gave us a lift.”
Corona del Mar’s defense made the big plays when needed. The Sea Kings forced 21 turnovers and rarely let the Cubs get set in their offense.
Goalie Greg Rhodes made 8 saves, 4 in the second quarter.
In the other 4-A semifinal match:
Sunny Hills 14, Newport Harbor 9--The top-seeded Lancers (28-2) also jumped to an early lead at Belmont Plaza. Sunny Hills led, 4-1, at the end of the first quarter and, 7-2, at halftime. Jose Santiago scored 5 goals and Jason Klingsberg had 4 for the Lancers. Kurt Elder had 5 goals for Newport Harbor (18-12).