Burbank water polo holds on for rivalry win over Burroughs

BURBANK — As has been the case in Pacific League matches throughout the season, it’s never quite clear just what Burbank High boys’ water polo team will be showcased in the pool.

On Wednesday afternoon against rival Burroughs, the Bulldogs showed just how dominant they could be — in the second quarter, at least.

That was before they squandered a five-goal lead with just more than three minutes to play, only to hold off the pesky Indians for a nailbiting 13-12 win.

“We weren’t really focused in the end, I guess we relaxed a little,” said Burbank’s Dante Nazarian, who had a team-high four goals. “It got pretty close, it was dangerous, they could’ve had it.”

After Daniel Gonzalez scored his third goal of the match with 3:22 to go, his Bulldogs were up, 13-8, and all seemed well for a team that will enter next week’s Pacific League Tournament as the No. 2 seed and will face third-seeded Crescenta Valley. But a pair of goals by Burroughs’ Casey Ueno, who had a match-high five, breathed life into the Indians (2-3 in league) with his last tally coming with 2:32 left. With 1:06 to go, Danny Moireu scored his second goal of the match to bring the score to 13-11 and things got really dicey. And finally, with just 40 seconds to go, Kevin Ueno scored his second goal of the match.

Burbank first-year Coach Kristina Garcia quickly called a timeout, but the subsequent Bulldogs possession was stolen by Max Young and Burroughs Coach Danny Garcia immediately called a timeout. On the ensuing play, though, Burbank’s Zach Card defended well and forced a last-second prayer of a shot by Casey Ueno that was far off goal.

“It came down to the last possession,” said Burroughs’ Garcia. “It was so much more than just the rivalry.

“We wanted to upset them. It had everything to do with league.”

While Burbank (12-6, 4-2 in league) is ranked sixth in CIF Southern Section Division V and in the midst of one of its most successful seasons, Burroughs has one shot now at getting into the league tournament as it faces Pasadena in a make-up match on Friday on the road at 3:30 p.m.

“That’s a must-win,” said Burroughs’ Garcia, whose team will advance into the league tournament if it defeats Pasadena based on a head-to-head tiebreaker.

Burbank’s downfall coincided with the substitution of an all-senior lineup, though that ended up being just two replacements for normal starters and began with the entire bench shouting for the seniors.

“It just turned into this whole mess,” said Burbank’s Sean Savoy, the team’s co-captain along with Card. “We decided to put our starters back in in the end and we won.”

While Savoy stressed that the substitutions had much to do with the comeback, he admitted that two substitutions shouldn’t have had that big an effect.

“It shouldn’t have mattered if our players were cohesive and confident,” Savoy said. “I think they were too energetic about just getting in.”

To open the match, it was clear that Burroughs’ game plan was to play physical and to focus its defense on stopping Card, Burbank’s usual leading scorer.

“That was exactly it,” said Burroughs’ Garcia. “Be very, very physical, try to cause mismatches. We did that in the first quarter. Second quarter’s where we fell really behind.”

Burbank never trailed, building a 2-0 lead on goals by Patrick Vertani and Andres Pulgarin, who had two. But Burroughs forced a 4-4 tie at first quarter’s end, with Jeremy Trejo evening the match with 25 seconds to go in the second quarter.

But then Burbank took over.

“Second quarter we focused on just playing the game instead of playing dirty and stooping to their level,” Nazarian said.

Burbank opened the quarter with four straight goals and though Card was held scoreless in the stanza, he assisted on three, as the Bulldogs built an 8-4 lead before Kevin Ueno stopped the run, only to have Gonzalez answer with a score to put the advantage at 9-5 at halftime.

The teams traded two goals in the third quarter, sending action into the fourth with Burbank leading, 11-7.

Shane Pentkowski, Savoy and Card, who scored with 4:13 to go in the match to make it 13-8, had single tallies for the Bulldogs. Burroughs also got two goals from Oscar Hernandez.

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