Burbank water polo can't cash in second chance in playoff loss to Whittier

WHITTIER — The Burbank High boys' water polo season endured a wild conclusion to its 2013 season.

Essentially, the Bulldogs lost their CIF Southern Section Division V wild card playoff game against Whittier twice.

The Cardinals seemingly defeated Burbank by a goal in overtime. Each team vacated the pool, Whittier posed for celebratory pictures and the Bulldogs showered and toweled off.

Then word came that a mistake had been made. Whittier's Jose Avila had received his third exclusion 25 seconds into the first of two three-minute overtime periods. The scorer's table did not notice that Avila had reached the threshold for removal from the match. The officials noticed the mistake after the fact and determined that play should resume at the 2:35 mark of the first overtime period and the score reverted back to nine goals apiece.

"This is actually a first time thing," Burbank sophomore Artur Mheryan said "I've never experienced something like this"

However, Burbank could not capitalize on the replay, as Whittier defeated the Bulldogs, 10-9, in sudden death overtime.

"I'm happy to have the opportunity," said Burbank Coach Zeb Jenkins, whose team thought it had originally lost, 11-10, when the match was first ended. "Unfortunately we didn't capitalize. That's all I have to say."

Following the restart, each team went scoreless for the remainder of two overtime periods, resulting in one three-minute sudden death. With the score knotted, 9-9, the Cardinals' Steven Mendoza connected on a goal with 1:17 left for the victory, more than two hours after the match had started.

Jenkins theorized that it was more difficult for Whittier to return to the pool, having already celebrated a victory. Both Mheryan and teammate Dante Nazarian expressed enthusiasm for the second chance.

"I got pumped again to back into the game," Nazarian said. "It gave us another chance to win."

Nazarian led all scorers with five goals. However, he was tossed from the match midway through the fourth period for arguing a call. Following the confusion surrounding the first end of the match, he was inexplicably allowed back in the contest for the restart. However, Nazarian quickly picked up his third exclusion and had to — again — leave the game.

Burbank started the contest slowly and the Cardinals took a 7-4 lead into halftime and led, 9-6, with six minutes remaining in regulation. That's when Nazarian went to work, scoring three unanswered goals to tie the game at 9 and force overtime. He was ejected shortly after that.

"He's one of the best shooters in the [Pacific] League," Jenkins said.

Mheryan added a goal and two assists in the losing effort.

Burbank concluded its season with a 10-12 record following a fourth place finish in Pacific League play.

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