BURBANK — After losing the chance to defend their Pacific League Tournament title with a loss in Tuesday’s semifinals, the members of the Crescenta Valley High boys’ water polo team didn’t look all that interested in competing for third place either when they faced Burbank on Thursday.
The Bulldogs, on the other hand, came out with plenty of motivation to topple last year’s league champion and stuck it to a lackluster Falcons team for the better part of three quarters before Crescenta Valley made a late rally.
It wasn’t enough, however, to offset a strong Burbank performance led by Sean Savoy’s six goals and four from Sam Akopian that led to a 16-10 win.
“This is our CIF championship right here,” said Burbank Coach James Berman, a former Bulldogs player. “We’re rivals with this school, it’s a friendly rivalry, but this means a lot to everyone.”
Crescenta Valley (9-18, 4-4 in league) still finished third in league by virtue of its four regular-season wins, which, under the league’s scoring system, are each worth a point apiece and were combined with the three points gained by a fourth-place tournament finish. Burbank (3-5 in league) finishes fourth in league.
After benching his starters while facing a 7-0 deficit late in the first half, Crescenta Valley Coach Jan Sakonju eventually went back to his starting lineup in time to make a move with a couple minutes elapsed in the third quarter.
Akopian gave Burbank its biggest lead of the match, 12-1, on a lob with 4:52 left in the third before Crescenta Valley ignited its run to get back in into it.
Brian Dertli (five goals) scored the first of three man-advantage goals for the Falcons in the third quarter at the 4:38 mark and Jonny Malmrose cashed in another 6-5 advantage just over 2:00 later. Dertli scored again at the 1:32 mark and Leo Rostamian scored the next two in succession for the Falcons, who trailed, 12-6, by the end of the period.
Crescenta Valley extended its run to 6-0 by scoring the first goal of the fourth quarter on a tally by Rostamian amid a man-advantage before Burbank countered with a Zack Card goal at the 5:38 mark.
The Falcons got within 13-9 on back-to-back goals by Dertli and came mere inches away from pulling within two when a subsequent attempt by Dertli just inside the 4:00 mark floated inside the cage before being saved just before reaching the back. Burbank then went back up, 14-9, on a goal by Savoy at the other end, the beginning of a 3-1 Burbank run to close out the scoring.
“That happens. If you go up by that much, there will be a point in the game where there’s a lull,” Berman said. “I called a timeout when they came within four kind of as just a momentum stopper and told them to just slow it down, start using every possession and play to win.”
Burbank jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter and took full control of the match with a 4-0 run, including a run of three straight by Savoy, to begin the second. Sakonju made mass substitutions in the second quarter, which ended with the Falcons down, 9-1, after Griffin Harting’s goal at the 2:08 mark that made it 7-1.
“We had meetings yesterday on exactly what we were going to do to shut it down,” Berman said. “We followed our plan to a T and we got the result that we wanted.”