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Corona del Mar Pulls Out All Stops to Win Title, 8-6

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Newport Beach Corona del Mar High was top-seeded at the South Coast boys’ water polo tournament, but the Sea Kings’ 8-6 victory Saturday over La Jolla The Bishop’s in the championship game looked more like an upset.

The Bishop’s had impressed many during the three-day tournament. After one-sided victories in the early rounds--the Knights defeated Tustin and Los Alamitos on Thursday by a combined score of 35-8--they reached the championship game at Newport Beach Newport Harbor High with a comfortable 12-7 semifinal victory over Lake Forest El Toro, The Times’ fourth-ranked team in the region.

The Bishop’s, a San Diego Section Division II finalist last season, has emerged as a Southland power in recent years by keeping a corps of players intact since junior high school. Five players on the team won the 1997 Speedo Cup national championship in the 13-and-under division.

“That’s a very good team,” said Corona del Mar Coach John Vargas, who takes over at Stanford next year. “It’s good for us to beat a team like that.”

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The Bishop’s had nearly three times as many man-advantage opportunities, but the top-ranked Sea Kings were able to stop eight of 11.

A critical stop came with 32 seconds remaining in the game and Corona del Mar leading, 7-6. The Bishop’s had narrowed the lead to one 33 seconds earlier, and Tyler Kandel was preparing to shoot from about seven meters when Michael March swiped the ball from Kandel’s shooting hand.

With the 35-second shot clock turned off, the Sea Kings needed to hold onto possession to secure its first South Coast title since 1994. With eight seconds remaining, The Bishop’s Coach Jim Fales had one of his players jump into the pool. Fales succeeded in stopping the game clock and forcing a penalty shot, but March made the attempt.

“The mark of a good team is how well they play [man-advantage] defense,” Vargas said. “In practice we haven’t been playing good 6-on-5 defense, but today we did.”

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The Sea Kings also shot well from the perimeter.

Bobby Messenger scored three goals from outside and Jason Dorocco had two.

Corona del Mar’s main scoring threats, March and Artie Dorr, were held to just one goal by the Knights.


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