Jose Ruiz scored five goals to lead Montebello to an 11-8 victory over Rolling Hills Estates Peninsula in the Southern Section Division III boys' water polo championship game Monday at Belmont Plaza in Long Beach.
It was Montebello's first section title in any sport since the boys' cross-country team won in 1982.
"It's like we made history," said Ruiz, a senior.
The second-seeded Oilers (30-2) were 6-16 in the playoffs overall before this season and had never reached a championship game.
But Montebello Coach Sergio Macias, in his third season at the school, has implemented a stiff, energetic defense and an offense that emphasizes crisp, continuous ball movement in an effort to help his team overcome its size disadvantage.
"They play a much different style," said Peninsula's 6-foot-2 senior Zach Beckmann, who had five goals to lead the Panthers.
"They outplayed us. We tried to throw everything we had at them."
Peninsula (18-10) put the Oilers on their heels at the start of the game, scoring on its first two possessions to take a 2-0 lead less than two minutes into the contest.
"I didn't think we were going to be down, 2-0, in the beginning," Macias said. "But I was not really concerned. I knew we would fight back."
Ruiz did, scoring two of his team's next three goals in the quarter, and Louie Espinoza scored from the perimeter early in the second quarter to give Montebello a 4-2 lead.
Beckmann collected a rebound off the crossbar and scored at the halftime buzzer to keep Peninsula's deficit at two goals.
Marcus Moncibaez and Ruiz scored consecutive goals in the third quarter to move the Oilers out to a 9-5 lead.
The Panthers trimmed the Oilers' lead to 10-8 on Beckmann's goal with 2:44 left to play, but Ruiz stole the ball with 1:56 left and scored off a rebound of Arturo Felix's shot off the crossbar 18 seconds later.
Anaheim Esperanza 10, Los Alamitos 9 -- Vinny Bauerlein was the Aztecs' hero for the second consecutive game, coming off the bench to score the tying goal with 1:27 left to play in the Division II final at Belmont Plaza.
Eighteen seconds later, Bauerlein stole the ball and followed with the game-winning goal on a deflected shot with 46 seconds left.
Bauerlein, who scored from mid-pool in sudden death to lift fourth-seeded Esperanza (23-10) over Huntington Beach Marina in the semifinals, bounced his winning shot off the arm of Los Alamitos defender Byron Bailey and the ball was redirected over the head of goalkeeper Sam Draznin.
Second-seeded Los Alamitos (22-10), which won the Sunset League title over Esperanza, had two opportunities to tie the score, but Scott Davison's shot was deflected over the goal by Esperanza goalkeeper Chris Runge with 32 seconds remaining and David Mills' shot hit the crossbar with two seconds left.
Davidson scored five goals to lead Los Alamitos.