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Newport Harbor boys' water polo hangs on for SoCal Regional title

Jack White did not really want to let go of the championship plaque after the game.

The Newport Harbor High boys’ water polo senior let fellow co-captain Jake Liechty take it for some pictures, but Liechty gently put it right back in White’s grasp.

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White was the one who the announcer called “Jake” before the game, before his mother Joclene came over to make the correction.

All that mattered to Jack was that now you can call Newport Harbor the Southern California champions.

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Senior Jonny Rimlinger had a key steal in the final 30 seconds and No. 2-seeded Newport Harbor hung on to beat top-seeded Studio City Harvard-Westlake 10-9 in the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I title game Saturday night at Ocean View High.

It was a good way to end the season for the Sailors (32-2), who got a bit of revenge after the Wolverines (27-6) beat them last weekend in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 title match. Newport Harbor also won the rubber match of the teams’ five meetings this season.

The Sailors were a team with a very talented junior class at its core, but seniors made plays Saturday in their final high school game. Senior Makana Sanita led the team with three goals, and White scored twice.

“It’s sad that it’s our last game, but there’s nothing better than going out with a championship plaque,” White said. “We beat the best in NorCal, beat the best in L.A., beat the best in San Diego. That’s the schedule we wanted this year, the most challenging schedule so we could play the best in the entire state. We were pretty successful. It’s just a great season.”

Juniors Ike Love and Makoto Kenney added two goals each for Newport Harbor, while Liechty scored once. Junior goalkeeper Blake Jackson made nine saves.

Ethan Shipman and Nico Tierney each scored three goals for Harvard-Westlake, which almost rallied from an 8-2 deficit early in the third quarter.

Newport Harbor also beat The Bishop’s School of La Jolla 17-5 in a regional semifinal game earlier Saturday. Love had three goals, while Reed Stemler, Sanita, Eli Liechty, Rimlinger and Tommy Kennedy all scored two each.

Jake Liechty, Kenney, Jake Sullivan and Sam Allen all scored once for the Sailors against The Bishop’s School, while Jackson had 11 saves and Trey Genova made three.

The Sailors were able to find motivation after losing the Division 1 title match, and ended the season on a win.

“It’s rare to get this opportunity, especially after last weekend,” coach Ross Sinclair said. “It’s nice, fun for the boys, fun for the seniors. It’s a really special group. This is my fourth year, and I had these guys as freshmen. They’re a really special group, and definitely added to the legacy, helping this program continue in the direction that it’s going.”

Continuing the Newport Harbor tradition was definitely on the minds of the seniors after one last big win over Harvard-Westlake.

“It means a lot, especially putting the legacy back in Newport Harbor water polo like it should be,” Sanita said. “It felt good to finish off 32-2. We’re setting the bar pretty high now.”

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