BURBANK — With a few signature jaw-dropping moves sprinkled into Tuesday's Pacific League Tournament opener at Burbank High, Hoover High's Hakop Kaplanyan reaffirmed his status as the most explosive individual force in area boys' water polo, but Glendale retained the upper hand in the two teams' rivalry.
The Nitros got six goals from David Grigorian and, just as importantly, a solid defensive effort by Cole Veloz in limiting Kaplanyan, the reigning All-Area Boys' Water Polo Player of the Year, to five goals in Glendale's 15-12 win, its second over the cross-town Tornadoes in the last six days.
"The key for us was first off shutting down Hakop, or trying to shut him down — I've never seen a team shut him down, other than when Crescenta Valley did earlier this year," said Glendale Coach Forest Holbrook, whose team will play Crescenta Valley in the championship game at 5:15 p.m. at Burbank on Thursday after Hoover plays Burbank for third place at 4:15. "Our goal is to limit Hakop to one goal per quarter. He got five off and we're still pretty happy at that."
Glendale (6-1 in league) more than met its goal in the first quarter, where Kaplanyan was held scoreless, while the Nitros took a 3-0 lead on goals from Grigorian, Martin Narinyan and Martik Chatalyan.
Glendale, which entered ranked eighth in CIF Southern Section Division V, would stretch its lead to 5-1 by the 5:15 mark of the second quarter on Grigorian's third goal of the match, a turnaround skip shot assisted by Narinyan.
Kaplanyan assisted a David Pogosian goal with 4:30 to play to make it 5-2 before being hit with an ejection. Fired up upon his reentry into the match, Kaplanyan went on the attack, drew an ejection on Grigorian while being triple-teamed and brought Hoover within 5-3 on a man-advantage goal off an assist from Todd Bazik with 3:20 left in the first half.
After ending the first half up, 7-3, Glendale again appeared to have built a comfortable lead, 10-4, on goals by Grigorian and Shant Tokatyan, by the 4:50 mark of the third quarter.
But, keyed by Kaplanyan, Hoover got back in the game with a 4-1 run to close the quarter.
Kaplanyan threaded a pass to Pogosian, who made a nice no-look scoop finish, before assisting on an Arthur Soghomonyan tally to make it 11-6. Kaplanyan then blasted a shot right through the block of Glendale goalkeeper Haik Chatalyan (11 saves) before Hoover ended the quarter with another Soghomonyan goal.
Kaplanyan began the fourth quarter with an unbelievable shot, converted while nearly submerged under water and surrounded by a horde of Nitros defenders, to bring Hoover (10-17, 4-3 in league) as close as it had been since the second quarter at 11-9.
The teams traded goals for a while before Glendale pulled away at 15-11 on a key steal by Narinyan that came during a Hoover man-advantage. The play led to a Veloz goal on the other end that all but put it away with 2:22 to go.
"The story of any game against Hoover is how you play them on defense," Holbrook said. "Our boys played very well, very disciplined guarding Hakop and David Pogosian.
"The game is all really about matchups when you play Hoover. I couldn't be happier with how Cole is playing his role."
Afterward, Hoover Coach Ara Oganesyan lamented the divergence from the game plan and inconsistent play that he felt cost his team the game.
"It's really tough," Oganesyan said. "I definitely would say we are not where we wanted to be at this point in the season. As I see other teams improve, we have these mental breakdowns, just a lot of inconsistencies."