CORONA DEL MAR — The game was played in the pool Friday night, but it ended in a football score.
It wasn't really the result the Corona del Mar High boys' water polo team wanted.
CdM suffered a surprisingly lopsided loss in its home pool, falling to the Griffins, 14-6, in the quarterfinals of the South Coast Tournament.
The Sea Kings can now get no better than fifth place. They'll play Long Beach Wilson for the second time this year on Saturday at 8:30 a.m., back at CdM, in a fifth-place semifinal.
CdM Coach Barry O'Dea had a message to his team during a fairly long postgame talk Friday night. In a way, it was also a challenge.
"I told the guys that I'll be more disappointed if we just come out and tank tomorrow, because we're not in the top four, than I am tonight because of losing this game," O'Dea said. "This is just part of the process. We've got to keep our chins up, come back and fight another day."
The score was close enough in the first half, which ended with Los Alamitos up, 7-5. Then Corona del Mar (3-2) suddenly stopped scoring.
The Griffins (5-0) scored five unanswered goals in the third quarter. Some of them were of the spectacular variety, like when senior Chandler Jarrels struck on a right-wing backhander from about seven meters near the end of the quarter.
Jarrels and fellow senior Max Merrill each scored five goals to pace Los Al. Merrill also made four steals as Los Alamitos tallied 15 steals, compared to just three for CdM.
"I was real happy with the intensity, the patience and the discipline," Griffins Coach Dave Carlson said. "These guys play really good defense anyways, but it was primarily our offense that we were happy about. Our team's defense when they play with passion is solid. I mean, that defense is typically that good all the time. It's the offense, we generally will rush things and be impatient."
Instead it was CdM that struggled offensively. Senior Danny Marshall finally ended the drought, netting a power-play goal with 1:46 left in the game.
It was the Sea Kings' first goal since the second quarter, ending a span of nearly 15 minutes without a goal. For much of the fourth quarter O'Dea left a couple of players down in the offensive end, but the Sea Kings weren't able to get goals in transition.
"We had opportunities to score, and when we missed those opportunities they kind of turned into opportunities for them," O'Dea said. "Los Al played well. They play a different kind of look water polo; they do a lot of movement. They scored a ton of shots outside of five meters, and we didn't get very many blocks on those."
Senior center Armen Mavusi scored two goals for CdM. Jack Harryman, Kyle Trush and Colby Watson scored the other goals for the Sea Kings, and Harryman had a pair of assists. Senior keeper Patrick McKenzie made six saves.
Los Alamitos moves on to play two-time defending tournament champion Mater Dei in the first semifinal, at 10:40 a.m. Saturday at CdM. Newport Harbor plays Loyola in the second semifinal at 11:45.
"The guys really like playing Mater Dei," Carlson said of facing the Monarchs, who own a 57-match winning streak. "We scrimmaged them a lot in the summertime. It's always a fun, physical game."
The championship match is scheduled for 4:05 p.m., also at CdM. The top-eight matches had to be moved from Newport Harbor to CdM after a pump broke at the Newport Harbor pool.