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Late surge propels Burbank High boys’ water polo past Hoover

Late surge propels Burbank High boys’ water polo past Hoover
Burbank High’s Artur Mheryan takes a shot on goal versus Hoover High in Pacific League action on Thursday. Burbank won, 9-7. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

GLENDALE — A pair of two-goal deficits in the third quarter weren’t enough to bury the Burbank High boys’ water polo team in the second Pacific League match of the year at Hoover High.

For the second time in the third frame, the Tornadoes had an opportunity to seize momentum with a three-goal lead when they earned a man advantage with 8:29 to play in the game.

PHOTOS: Hoover vs. Crescenta Valley boys’ water polo

Hoover’s near-post shot was saved by Burbank goalie Derek Baer. The Bulldogs keeper then fired an outlet pass to Dante Nazarian, who went on to score. It was the first of four consecutive Burbank goals that secured a 9-7 Bulldogs victory.

“We had to adjust,” first-year Burbank Coach Zeb Jenkins said of his team’s late rally, “they’re pretty good, better than we thought. They’re a great team and gave us a good fight and I’m proud. I am glad our team was able to adjust with the way the game was being played.”

While Burbank scored four goals in the final 8:10, Hoover was shut over the final 9:09.

“I think a couple players felt pressure and they pushed that pressure onto their teammates,” said Hoover Coach Kevin Witt, whose team dropped its league opener to Pasadena, 13-11, Tuesday, while Burbank fell to Crescenta Valley, 17-6, in its opener. “It’s unfortunate how it ended up, but credit Burbank; it was tough to come back from that after a tough game against CV and to come back and win late like that, I think it’s impressive.”

Twenty-eight seconds after Nazarian’s goal, Andres Pulgarian scored on a quick break after a Shant Piramzyan steal and Arman Torosian assist to tie the game at 7 with 42 seconds left in the third quarter.

Approximately 1:15 into the fourth, the Bulldogs (6-6, 1-1 in league) took their first lead of the game on a six-on-five goal from Pulgarian on an Artur Mheryan assist. Burbank capped the scoring with 3:02 to play when Gevork Terzyan turned his defender, took a pass from Nazarian and converted an uncontested shot on goal.

Hoover (2-7, 0-2) had four more shots on goal and looked to its leading goal scorer in the game, Hakop Baghumian, to find a clutch goal. Burbank zeroed in on the senior center defender and denied him clean looks on goal late after he had a game-high four goals and six steals earlier.

The Tornadoes also had a six-on-five possession with 1:45 to play but couldn’t crack the cage, as Narek Sarokhani fired consecutive shots that ricocheted off the top post.

The final 14 minutes was a final cry from the first two quarters. Hoover controlled the first half and took a 4-2 lead into halftime, with Baghumian scoring twice in that span.

“I think that was maybe one of the best halves of water polo we’ve had,” Witt said of the first two quarters. “We played great defense, had a number of steals from a help defender, limited our bad ejections and were taking smart shots on offense.”

Burbank rallied and got two goals from Mheryan, who finished with a team-high three goals and two assists, 1:35 into the second half after steals from Nazarian and Piramzyan to even things up at 4.

“I was upset because last year we did so well against them. We got back in that third quarter and we took it back,” Mheryan said. “We started off well; I got a counter and scored two in a row. That gave us motivation, coach gave us a good motivational talk and I guess we got our heads back in the game and took it.”

While they couldn’t do it in the final 8:10 of the game, the Tornadoes took back control early in the third quarter. Hakop Kaplanyan scored 13 seconds after Mheryan’s second goal off an Aren Sukiasyan helper. Baghumian pushed the lead back to two, 6-4, when he fired a skip-shot into the top left corner of the cage with 4:40 left in the third.

After a miraculous blind-shot goal from Burbank’s Robert Mheryan, Baghumian drew a five-meter shot and cashed it in for a 7-5 lead with 2:09 to go in the third.

“We’ll have a very good practice where we’ll do things correctly and work as a team, and we’ll have days where we just fight with each other and it’s almost like we’re playing against an opponent and ourselves,” Witt said. “We’re still trying to work through that.”