Boys’ Water Polo: Tars take Cup
IRVINE — The six-on-five was crisp out of the timeout for the Newport Harbor High boys’ water polo team.
Mitch Mendoza passed it to Preston Lee, who found Dan Stevens for a strong shot and goal.
“It was Preston to the post, and slam dunk,” Newport Harbor Coach Robert Lynn said.
The whole weekend could be considered a slam dunk for the Sailors.
Stevens’ power play goal with 1 minute, 36 seconds left held up, enabling Newport Harbor to escape with a 9-8 victory over league rival Los Alamitos in the title match of the S&R Sport Cup on Saturday night at Woollett Aquatics Center.
Senior Curtis Fink made a key steal on the Griffins’ final possession as well, helping the Sailors (13-2) win the tournament for the second straight year. They also earned their second victory over the Griffins in four days; the first was an 8-7 victory in the Sunset League opener on Wednesday.
“Los Al is really well-coached and really disciplined,” said Lee, a senior team captain who had a goal and three assists in the final. “We just came out and tried to stick to the game plan that Robert talked about. It’s super-rewarding to beat a team like that twice in a week ... We’ve just clicked. Everyone is playing really well together and knows what everyone else is doing.”
The Sailors won the game on six-on-five, where they converted seven of 12 opportunities. They held Los Alamitos to one of five conversions.
“Just like last time, it was a battle,” said Stevens, another team captain who scored three goals and had two field blocks. “Six-on-five is usually the difference in big games like this.”
Lynn has talked about this being a mentally challenging week. The Sailors played Los Alamitos twice, plus Loyola and Northern California powerhouse Sacred Heart Prep, which Newport Harbor beat, 11-9, in a tournament semifinal earlier Saturday.
The Sailors certainly finished strong.
“I think it’s a testament to the coaches and all the training we’ve been doing,” Lee said. “We played six games this week; this was our sixth game. I think it shows how mentally tough everybody is, and how willing they are to work for each other.”
Junior Ryan Warde also had three goals for Newport Harbor in the final. Senior center Andrew Silvers had a goal, three steals and drew three exclusions. Fink drew five exclusions and had a pair of steals, and senior goalie Wyatt Muller made six saves.
Chandler Jarrels and Christian Searing each fouled out for Los Alamitos (10-4), but the Griffins were nevertheless up, 8-7, midway through the fourth quarter when Kenneth Keller scored his second goal.
But Newport Harbor responded. Silvers drew an exclusion and Warde skipped in the shot, tying the score with 3:09 to play. Then it was Fink drawing an exclusion in transition, which led to Stevens’ game-winner.
Twice in the last two minutes the Griffins called timeout, running plays out of the timeout with plenty of motion. On the last one, Lee said he followed Keller underwater.
But the pass from senior goalie Luke Wesier (12 saves) to Keller was picked off by a hard-charging Fink, allowing Newport Harbor to run the clock out.
“Again, that’s just showing how everyone’s on the same page and working together,” Lee said. “That was a great heads-up play by Curtis.”
Stevens led the Sailors with four goals in the semifinal win over Sacred Heart Prep, which is coached by former Newport Harbor Coach Brian Kreutzkamp. Fink and Mendoza had two goals each, and Lee added three steals and four assists. Warde, Silvers and Blake Grove added single goals. Grove’s was a key one, a nice lob with the shot clock running out in the third quarter that allowed the Sailors to start pulling away.
Newport Harbor held Sacred Heart scoreless for the first 11-plus minutes of the second half, building an 11-6 lead before the Gators scored three goals.
“I think the guys now are at a stage where they’re going to start concentrating and training a lot more,” Lynn said. “They kind of are buying into things. They see the beauty of what they can do when they’re working together. Just their concentration is so important.”
Corona del Mar High finished fifth in the tournament after winning twice Saturday. The Sea Kings topped Miramonte, 11-6, before besting Foothill, 14-7, in the fifth-place game.
Reid Chase had three goals against Miramonte, and Danny Marshall, Colby Watson and Jake Wyatt each scored twice. Brendan Fisher and Patrick McKenzie combined for five saves.
Chase and Jack Harryman each scored three goals for the Sea Kings in the fifth-place game. Center Armen Mavusi added a pair of goals, and McKenzie had seven saves.
“This is a pretty usual schedule for us right now,” CdM Coach Barry O’Dea said. “We’re on our track; we’re all about progressing as we lead into November. We’ve been getting better in multiple areas, and if things go as they have for us over the last seven years, we’ll be hitting on all cylinders come playoff time.”