BURBANK — A steal by Burbank High junior Zach Card with 17 seconds left secured the Bulldogs boys’ water polo team its first Pacific League win this season, 12-11, over visiting Pasadena on Thursday afternoon.
The victory improved Burbank’s record to 14-4 overall and 1-4 in league, as Burbank heads into Wednesday’s league finale against cross-town rival Burroughs.
Pasadena (10-7) ends league play 2-4 and likely needs a strong run through the Pacific League tournament to net a CIF Southern Section at-large berth.
“It feels really good to get this win,” Burbank interim coach James Berman said. “It’s good that our guys didn’t give up on our season. They’re still working hard and we’re still looking to improve in every game.”
Burbank, which led 12-11 with 47.69 seconds remaining, tried to milk the 30-second shot clock as much as possible.
The strategy backfired, however, when Pasadena junior Alec Brierty blanketed Burbank senior attacker Sam Akopian, who then had the ball stolen away on a blind-sided steal from junior Julian Baker with 25 seconds left.
The quick change of possession, though, flustered Pasadena, which other than Brierty and Akopian, were on the defensive half of the pool.
Seven seconds later, Card jumped in front of a wayward pass for the game-winning steal and then passed back to goalkeeper Derek Baer, who held the ball until time expired.
“This is a tough loss because we really needed to have it to clinch the league’s last guaranteed playoff spot,” Pasadena Coach Neil Esser said. “We played better offensively and they basically won because of a fluke goal. That’s the difference.”
Esser was referencing perhaps the oddest and most devastating goal of the game, which came in the final second of the third quarter.
Pasadena, which once trailed, 7-2, in the second quarter, closed to within 9-8 with nine seconds left in the third on the second of two straight lob goals from junior Cooper Horn, this off an assist from senior Will Klein.
Momentum appeared to be on Pasadena’s side as Card took possession near his goal and allowed the clock to wind down without moving.
Then, with a second left, Card rose up and cranked a shot from three-quarters of the pool that deflected off the hand of teammate Nick Vitagliano, bounced off the crossbar and then ricocheted off the back of the head of Pasadena’s Horn and into the net, giving Burbank a 10-8 lead after three.
Burbank opened the fourth quarter with goals from Daniel Gonzalez and Akopian, the latter score putting the home team up, 12-9, with 3:08 left.
Pasadena countered with three straight goals on its next three possessions from Klein (two goals) and Brierty, with Berman receiving a yellow card during the scoring spree.
Brierty’s goal came with 47.69 seconds left.
“That game was hectic. There were some calls that I have never seen in my life,” Berman said. “And there were some calls that I don’t know how you can miss. But we came out with a ‘W’ and that’s all that matters.”
Sean Savoy and Akopian led Burbank with three goals apiece while Card and Gonzalez scored two each. Baer finished with seven saves.
Klein led Pasadena with three goals while Brierty, Andrew Phillips and Horn all knotted two goals apiece. Pasadena goalie Nolan Berge tallied a game-high eight saves.