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Corona del Mar boys’ water polo stunned by Foothill in CIF Division 2 quarterfinals

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Corona del Mar’s Gavin Reed (9) tries to get a shot off but it goes off the head of Foothill’s Jackson Matos in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs on Saturday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Tanner Pulice pulled nearly everything out of his bag of tricks.

The UCLA-bound Corona del Mar High boys’ water polo senior attacker capped a shining four-year varsity career with one of his best matches Saturday night, in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 quarterfinals.

Pulice scored a match-high six goals and drew four penalty shots against visiting No. 4-seeded Foothill, including a backhand goal in the second overtime period that temporarily gave CdM an 8-7 lead.

“I don’t even know if I’ve ever seen him score a backhand,” CdM coach Kareem Captan said. “He played out of his mind.”

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But Foothill senior Whittaker Worland scored his fourth goal on the Knights’ next possession to send the match to sudden death, ensuring that it would come down to one final shot.

Foothill again broke Corona del Mar’s heart and ended its season.

Foothill junior Kaito Ham scored on the opening possession of sudden-death overtime, and the No. 4-seeded Knights claimed a wild 9-8 win over the host Sea Kings.

Corona del Mar (19-11) sees its season end against Foothill (21-8) for the third straight season. Foothill also beat CdM in the 2017 Division 2 title match, and last year in the semifinals.

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The two-time defending Division 2 champion Knights will play top-seeded Palos Verdes in the semifinals Wednesday at Irvine’s Woollett Aquatics Center.

“I thought the kids did a great job,” Foothill coach Jim Brumm said. “I thought we came out a little tentative that first quarter, but we played good enough defense to keep us in it.

“I thought CdM played great. I knew they would. I knew it was going to be just a barn burner game. Last year it was overtime, this year it was sudden death. I’ve been here 32 years, and I think we’ve played CdM every year. They just always have been huge games, so we’re happy to be moving on.”

Senior Tyler Harvey scored twice for the Sea Kings, and senior goalkeeper Harrison Smith made 11 saves. Junior Dylan Hamm had three steals for CdM, which took a 3-1 lead after the first quarter.

From then on, the match stayed within a single goal the whole way.

“The boys respected what the CdM program is all about, they respected the rivalry with Foothill, and they just played their hearts out,” Captan said. “That was probably one of the better games I’ve ever been a part of, if not the best game I’ve been a part of … I just wish that we could have made [the season] last one more week.”

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