BURBANK — Following a one-year hiatus from the top of the Pacific League, the Crescenta Valley High boys’ water polo team found its way back to its accustomed spot.
Little clicked for the Falcons last year, who took third in league following four first-place finishes in a row. With added depth, maturity and a reliable scoring attack, things changed in a hurry this season for the Falcons.
Nelson White scored a match-high six goals and Alan Dearman added four on Thursday night to carry top-seeded Crescenta Valley to a 14-8 victory against second-seeded Glendale in the league’s championship match at Burbank.
Crescenta Valley (22-6, 8-0 in league) and Glendale (6-2 in league) found themselves locked in a tight battle until the Falcons, ranked No. 2 in CIF Southern Section Division VI behind Rio Mesa, tallied five goals in the fourth quarter to pick up their seventh league championship since 2000.
“It feels great after the disappointment of last year,” said White, a senior driver who scored four second-half goals. “I think we have played as hard as we possibly can this year.
“It was a fight with Glendale, but our whole team did a great job.”
The Falcons also got a pair of key goals from Matt Peters in the first minute of the fourth quarter to make it 11-6.
With a five-goal lead, 10th-year Crescenta Valley Coach Jan Sakonju didn’t take anything for granted.
“I looked up at the clock with about four minutes remaining and we still had a four-goal lead,” said Sakonju, whose team opened the tournament Tuesday with a 20-3 victory against fourth-seeded Burbank. “We needed a couple of quick scores [at the start of the fourth quarter].
“We try to go out there and frustrate our opponents by taking away their advantages and then breaking out. Glendale did a real good job of shutting down our counter-attacks. All year long, we’ve talked about maturity and controlling the game clock.”
The Nitros, who lost both meetings to Crescenta Valley this season, stayed within earshot of the Falcons throughout the first half. Crescenta Valley held a 5-2 halftime lead, but Glendale remained in the contest thanks to goalkeeper Thomas Sarkisyan making seven good saves.
Each team scored four third-quarter goals, but the Nitros, who began the tournament with an 11-10 victory against cross-town rival and third-seeded Hoover, didn’t have enough in reserve to match the Falcons’ offense in the fourth quarter.
“In the beginning of the fourth quarter, they got those two goals that made a big difference,” said fourth-year Glendale Coach Bob Zirovich, who got two goals each from Davit Gharagyozyan, Gor Asryan and Simon Grigorian. “We had difficulty focusing on the game and not the scoreboard.
“CV did a great job. We will use this game as a stepping stone because it’s always good to get a good game against a quality team.”
Crescenta Valley starting goalkeeper Danny Mock finished with eight saves, including five in the first quarter. Mock played the first and third quarters in goal, and reserve goalkeeper Rane Colvin made one save in the second and fourth.
Robby Ruzicka and Chris Veselich scored one goal each for the Falcons, who got three first-half goals from Dearman to set the pace. Martin Narinyan and Vahe Karimian scored one goal apiece for the Nitros.
Crescenta Valley and Glendale will learn who their first-round playoff opponents will be Sunday.
Hoover 14, Burbank 9: Hakop Kaplanyan scored a match-best eight goals and Zoree Karibyan added three to lift the Tornadoes (13-4 5-3) in the tournament’s third-place contest.
The playoff-bound Tornadoes also got one goal each from Tigran Edinchikyan, Andrew Michael and Taron Ifiktchyan. Hoover scored 10 second-quarter goals to overcome a 2-0 deficit.