Pasadena water polo upsets furious Burbank

PASADENA — Throw together a furious rally, a fired-up winner, an angry loser, a malfunctioning scoreboard and a long match and the opening to the Pacific League boys’ water polo season couldn’t have commenced any wackier.

Oh, and that’s not even mentioning host Pasadena High kicked off league play with a thrilling, 14-13, overtime upset win versus league contender Burbank, which entered Tuesday afternoon ranked eighth in Division V of the CIF Southern Section.

“This is an amazing win because we’re not as deep as Burbank. Burbank has two sets of sixes who could be starters,” Pasadena Coach Neil Esser. “Our starting six played a lot and they sucked it up and played hard. They didn’t make mistakes, they executed and they wanted this win.”

After both teams traded goals in the opening three-minute overtime session, Pasadena (11-4) took the lead for good on a bank shot off the inner post from junior Matthew Esser, who converted a six-on-five opportunity with 2:37 left that put Pasadena ahead, 13-12.

Esser’s goal was followed by the game-winning shot nearly two minutes later from junior Edin Memisevic, who scored off an assist from Julian Baker with 46 seconds remaining, which gave Pasadena a 14-12 lead.

Down two, Burbank (5-4) launched a frantic rally that began with a goal from Zack Card, who was assisted by Patrick Vertani, with 36 seconds left that was followed by a steal from Burbank goalie Derek Baer with 15 seconds remaining, which set up the visitors’ final opportunity.

That chance was a seven-yard shot from Arthur Mheryan that sailed wide with five seconds remaining.

“Oh, my God, this was so awesome. This was the best game I ever played,” Pasadena goalie Nolan Berge said.”I’m so happy, you don’t know.”

A bleary-eyed, red-faced Berge, who was hit in the nose by an errant shot in the third quarter, finished with 12 saves, which tied him with Baer.

Yet, it looked as if Pasadena wouldn’t need much of Berge’s heroics after the team jumped out to a 4-0 advantage after one quarter thanks to two goals and an assist from senior Cooper Horn.

Pasadena’s lead ballooned to 7-2 with 2:44 left in the second after a score from senior captain Marcus Gonzalez, again with a man-advantage.

The score, though, kicked off a Burbank response, which started with two goals before the half from Card and Daniel Gonzalez and eventually led to a 6-1 run, fueled by two goals each from Dante Nazarian and Patrick Vertani.

The second of Vertani’s scores knotted the match at 8 with 1:28 remaining in the third and was aided by a Pasadena kick out.

Both teams then traded goals until the match ended in regulation tied at 11.

A goal from Gonzalez with 1:33 remaining in the first overtime session was matched with 13 seconds remaining on a five-meter penalty goal from Card.

“Everything should have been executed 1,000 times better. Today was really a big disappointment,” Burbank Coach Kristina Garcia said. “In practice, we’re a phenomenal team capable of anything. When we get to games, it just switches and the light turns off and everything pauses. We just haven’t executed and that’s a major problem.”

The match lasted 1 hour 44 minutes and was delayed nine minutes because the power suddenly turned off on the scoreboard midway through the first quarter.

Card led Burbank with eight goals, while Horn finished with four goals for Pasadena, which also received three goals apiece from Esser and Memisevic.

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