IRVINE — This was not how Matt Sherburne wanted the last regular-season game of his high school career to end.
The Corona del Mar High senior center was excluded twice in the first quarter of Tuesday’s huge Pacific Coast League finale at Northwood.
When Sherburne came back in during the second half, many of his shots seemed to end up clanging off the crossbar or in the hands of Northwood goalie Tim Shaw.
The Sea Kings, who needed to win to clinch a co-Pacific Coast League title, were down by a goal headed into the fourth quarter. Would Sherburne be a part of the first CdM senior class in well more than a decade to not win league?
Sherburne did not fret. He kept drawing exclusions, helping CdM stay in the contest. And he also kept shooting.
The last shot, a lob, also clanged off the bar, but there was senior Charlie Rodosky on the rebound. Rodosky scored the game-winning goal with 1:08 left, helping lift CdM to a 9-8 victory that means the Sea Kings and Timberwolves share the league title.
Northwood won a coin flip after the game, meaning the Timberwolves (9-1 in league) will be the league’s top representative for the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs that begin next week. But Tuesday’s victory was still huge for CdM (16-11, 9-1 in league).
The Sea Kings have won at least a share of 15 straight league titles. They needed to win Tuesday to keep that streak going after losing to Northwood, 11-10, at home last month, their first league setback in 10 years.
“It was a huge deal for us,” said Sherburne, who led all players with five goals and drew four exclusions. Like in the teams’ first meeting, CdM Coach Barry O’Dea instructed Sherburne to stay in the offensive end near the end of the game, leading to counterattack opportunities.
“That was fun,” said Sherburne, CdM’s only returning varsity contributor from a year ago. “It seems to kind of throw them off, because the last time we played them we did the same thing, and it worked.”
It again paid off. Sherburne earned an exclusion then scored the goal with 6:28 left, tying the score at 7-7. Then, after CdM junior Jack Trush earned an exclusion, Sherburne struck from five meters to give CdM an 8-7 lead with 4:14 to go.
Northwood tied the score on its next possession, as senior Josh Hayaski scored from the left side on six-on-five.
Trush earned a five-meter penalty shot after senior Wade Munger’s steal with two minutes left. But Shaw (12 saves) stuffed Sherburne’s shot, keeping the score tied, although not for long after Rodosky’s game-winning strike.
Junior goalkeeper Nigel Bress made a save on a Northwood outside shot with 37 seconds left. The Timberwolves got the ball back with eight seconds left, but couldn’t get another shot off.
O’Dea said his players were fired up after the last game, when the Daily Pilot article mentioned that Northwood Coach Jocelyn Manderino used the hashtag "#drownthequeens” in a tweet the morning of the game.
“They don’t like being called ‘queens’ on social media and in the newspaper,” O’Dea said. “They were pretty fired up about that.”
Manderino said after Tuesday’s game that she used the hashtag in good fun after the Battle of the Bay game, when she was tweeting with Newport Harbor girls’ players.
“It was more off of the Battle of the Bay, when I was joking around with the girls at Newport,” Manderino said. “It had nothing to do with Northwood, it was all pretty much Newport ... It was more of a carry over from the Battle of the Bay. Once a Sailor, always a Sailor. It’s one of those things. There’s always a rivalry there with CdM and Newport, and I’m a Sailor girl.”
Manderino said she was proud of the Timberwolves, who were led by senior John Hartshorne with three goals and junior Michael Garas with two. Manderino said senior Jason Lee, another key player, did not play for precautionary reasons after he was head-butted during a game Saturday.
Northwood again used an efficient power play to its advantage, as the Timberwolves converted four of five chances. CdM converted four of seven.
“To me, there shouldn’t be too much of a sting,” Manderino said. “My boys played really well ... We expected a hard-fought battle and it was a good game.”
CdM also received goals from Munger, senior Jay Neiger and sophomore Ben Brooks. Munger led everyone with four steals, while Neiger, Trush and senior Logan Piper had two each.
O’Dea also had reasons to be proud. He said junior Ashton Jajonie, who had two assists, played through sickness. And Nigel Bress came off the bench in the second quarter to make five saves, as well as feed the counterattack.
O’Dea put Bress in goal after Northwood’s Garas scored a goal from near mid-tank.
“He came in stone-cold, and he went in there and dropped a couple of dimes to Sherburne,” O’Dea said. “I thought that was big on his part.”
It also would have been big for the Sea Kings to win the coin flip, but their regular season is now over. They have a week to prepare for the Division 1 playoffs, which begin with first-round matches Nov. 13. Brackets will be released Sunday at 9 a.m.
“We’re going to be going morning and afternoon [practice] for the rest of the week, because it’s playoff time,” O’Dea said. “I think the loss to [Northwood] a couple of weeks ago was a little bit of a wake-up call ... It hasn’t been like one of our most outstanding seasons, but I tell you what, this team’s got a lot of courage and a lot of heart. I wouldn’t want to play us in the playoffs. I think we’re going to be a little bit of a scary team to look at.”