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Hoover boys' water polo loses playoff match by one goal

PASADENA — In a tight game, defense ruled the pool as Hoover High hosted Northwood in a CIF Southern Section Division III second-round boys’ water polo contest.

In a game that never saw either squad carry more than a one-goal advantage, it was visiting Northwood which struck last. The Timberwolves then hung on to hand Hoover a 6-5 defeat Thursday at Pasadena Poly.

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“[Northwood] is a great team. I really thought we had a good chance against them,” Hoover coach Kevin Witt said. “I thought we created opportunities. A couple things go our way, a couple more defensive stops, and we’re going on to the quarterfinals.”

Both squads played suffocating defense, with goals at a premium throughout.

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“The key for us was our perimeter defense,” Witt said. “Our individual defense really did a great job limiting their good passes [and] their good looks to their drivers… our individual defense was topnotch.”

The contest was tied at the end of each of the first three quarters, and well into the fourth, before second-seeded Northwood (23-7) pulled ahead with 3:34 left. Northwood’s Spencer Sellwood rose up from midrange and fired the ball into the back of the net to break the 5-5 deadlock.

“We knew Hoover was going to be a tough, physical team. They have some real good players out there,” Northwood coach Kyle Kim-E said. “We’re happy with the win, but it was a really exciting game up to the last possession.”

Hoover (18-8), the Pacific League champion, mounted two final promising attacks in the final two minutes, only to see both foiled by a whistle. Soon after a Tornado timeout with 1:39 to go, Hoover was on the attack with David Ashkharian in possession of the ball on the right side, but the chance ended when the senior was called for carrying the ball underwater.

After a timeout with 20 seconds left, the Tornadoes moved the ball around before tossing it into Jordan Corpuz deep down on the left. However, as the final seconds ticked away, the senior with whistled for a push-off and the thrilling game came to an end.

“I know its going to hurt, but it was really a fantastic game.” Witt said.

In the fourth quarter, Timberwolves goalkeeper Noah Pendleton was key in shutting out Hoover with five saves in the final quarter.

The difference-maker for Northwood was the play of Max Abravanel. Abravanel led all scorers with four goals, including all three the visitors tallied in the third quarter.

Ashkharian and Corpuz set the pace for Hoover with two goals each. Corpuz had his team’s only goal in the first, while Ashkharian had the Tornadoes’ lone goal of the second. Each of the seniors grabbed a goal in the third quarter, which was the only frame in which either team scored more than once.

Junior Hayk Nazaryan notched one goal for Hoover, which came two minutes into the third quarter.

The first goal of the contest came from Abravanel, scoring with a powerful shot 50 seconds in. Hoover answered with 4:48 left when Samvel Manukyan passed to a wide open Corpuz for Hoover’s opening goal. The period ended knotted at 1.

In the second period, each team also notched a lone goal to make it 2-2 at halftime. Ashkharian scored his first goal at the 1:56 mark to give Hoover it’s first lead of the contest, only to see Northwood tie the score on a skip-shot with 2:25 remaining.

The third period saw both squads net three goals. Nazaryan put Hoover up again when he scored from the middle. Abravanel flipped the script scoring two goals in a 24-second span to grab the lead. Hoover tied it again on a five-meter shot by Corpuz. After another Abravanel goal, the hosts tied the score at 5 with three seconds left on a long shot from Ashkharian.

With the loss, the Tornadoes’ season comes to an end and for the 12 seniors on the roster it marks the end of their Hoover career.

“A lot of these guys have been on varsity for three or four years, so I know them pretty well,” Witt said. “It's hard to see a group like this go. When they came in together, they were all great friends in the pool and out.

“The program is going to hurt without them there. They had a couple struggles this year, but they came together. I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of a group as I am of these guys.”

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