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Newport Harbor boys' water polo pulls away to beat Laguna Beach, advance to Division 1 semifinals

Trailing for much of the match, the Newport Harbor High boys’ water polo team needed a spark to avoid an upset loss.

Seniors stepped up late.

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Jack White, Jake Liechty and Makana Sanita scored fourth-quarter goals as host Newport Harbor pulled away for a 9-6 win over Surf League rival Laguna Beach in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs Thursday night.

Sanita, Liechty and junior center Ike Love each scored two goals for top-seeded Newport Harbor (28-1), which won its 20th straight match.

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“With the amount of seniors we have, we have a lot of drive to do well and do something special with this,” Liechty said.

Newport Harbor plays No. 4 Westlake Village Oaks Christian in a semifinal Wednesday night at Irvine’s Woollett Aquatics Center, with the time of the match to be determined.

Laguna Beach plays Mater Dei in a consolation semifinal Tuesday.

The Surf League champion Sailors trailed 4-3 at halftime against Laguna Beach (18-11), and didn’t take their first lead until sophomore Eli Liechty scored a six-on-five goal late in the third quarter. But Breakers freshman Will Kelly answered with a strike from about seven meters, tying the score at 5-5 entering the fourth.

With the amount of seniors we have, we have a lot of drive to do well and do something special with this.


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Newport Harbor’s seniors came through. White scored inside, then Jake Liechty scored outside as the Sailors opened up a 7-5 advantage with 5:49 left. Breakers coach Robert Grayeli was forced to call a timeout.

Newport Harbor pushed the lead to 8-5 when junior Makoto Kenney scored from long-range with the shot clock running down. The Sailors were on their way to their third win over the Breakers this season.

Newport Harbor High's Makoto Kenney looks to shoot as Laguna Beach defender William Clark gets in his way during the opening round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs on Thursday.
Newport Harbor High's Makoto Kenney looks to shoot as Laguna Beach defender William Clark gets in his way during the opening round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs on Thursday. (Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Tommy Kennedy had an assist and a steal for the Sailors, while Kenney had a match-high four steals. Junior goalkeeper Blake Jackson made 10 saves, including one on a penalty shot.

“It’s really hard to beat a team three times in a row,” Newport Harbor coach Ross Sinclair said. “They move really well. They’ve got a couple of guys that really create in one-on-one. I think we were a little too passive in the first half … [but] we were able to go four quarters. I think our speed and conditioning definitely paid off in that second half.”

Zach Cord led Laguna Beach with two goals, while James Nolan, Logan McCarroll and Colton Gregory also scored. Junior keeper Caden Capobianco had a stellar game with 12 saves.

“They’re tough to shut down for four quarters,” Grayeli said. “I’m just really proud of my guys.”

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