BURBANK — As the story of Hakop Kaplanyan and the most successful seasons of Hoover High boys' water polo continues to be written, Tuesday's triumph will no doubt serve as another memorable chapter.
One defender couldn't stop Kaplanyan, nor could two or even three at times once Cathedral City changed its strategy. Neither could the officials, as he kept scoring despite being troubled by two ejections.
In the end, the ultra-talented junior scored all but one of his team's goals in a 16-12 defeat of Cathedral City in the wild-card round of the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs at Burbank High.
"I was kind of [surprised]," said Kaplanyan, who had 15 goals, of Cathedral City's approach of guarding him one on one and sticking to it throughout the entire first period and much of the second. "They thought they could handle me, but I guess I proved them wrong."
The reigning All-Area Boys' Water Polo Player of the Year imposed his will from the get-go, scoring 19 seconds into the match and then again at the 5:45 mark off an assist from Todd Bazik to give the Tornadoes a 2-0 lead they would never relinquish.
"He definitely was extremely effective," said Hoover Coach Ara Oganesyan, whose Tornadoes (16-15) will play host Pasadena Poly in a first-round match today at 3:15 p.m. "When he was playing focused, when he was playing in the system, he was doing well."
Kaplanyan scored four in a row at one point in the second period and his team's first 11 and last four, all of those coming in the last quarter. Perhaps his finest goal came when he put the Tornadoes ahead, 11-5, late in the second quarter. Kaplanyan essentially passed to himself, tossing the ball over a double-team, dipping between two defenders, emerging and grabbing the ball, before spinning to the inside past a third defender and tossing in his 11th goal of the match at that point.
Hoover goalie Ron Glandian added 10 saves and four steals, while Arvin Abrahamin had five steals.
The only real deterrence for Kaplanyan was much the same for the entire Hoover squad and that was ejections. Kaplanyan missed part of the first and second quarters and the entire third period with two ejections.
"Coach did the right thing taking me out," said Kaplanyan, who saw his team go cold in the third with only a David Davtyan score to speak of as Cathedral City scored twice to pull within 12-9. "I came out the last quarter prepared and playing it smart just to take it home."
Kaplanyan scored at the 5:32 mark of the third to make it 13-9 and turn the tide for good.
Cathedral City (8-9) scored six of its goals on the man-advantage.
"Besides that, I would say if we'd played smarter, the score wouldn't have been [as close as it was]," Kaplanyan said.
Hoover, the third-place squad from the Pacific League, and Cathedral City, which tied for third in the Desert Valley League, didn't appear to know much about each other going in.
But Hoover found out quickly it had a match that was for the taking.
"Probably the first minute, first two minutes," said Oganesyan when asked if there was a point at which he knew Tuesday's match was a match his team should win.
And, of course, Cathedral City certainly didn't seem to know how to handle Kaplanyan.
"Poor guys are coming out from Cathedral City, they didn't know a thing about him," Oganesyan said.
Meanwhile, Hoover, which advanced to the quarterfinals last season, has just one day to turn around and face a formidable Pasadena Poly squad that's the fourth seed in the playoffs.
Thus, there wasn't much celebrating after Tuesday's victory.
Said Oganesyan: "We're worried enough to go back and practice tonight."
Which his team did.