Burbank outlasts CV for 9-7 win

BURBANK — For nearly nine minutes of tense, dramatic, back-and-forth Pacific League boys' water polo, host Burbank High and Crescenta Valley held each other scoreless.

But just 26 seconds into overtime, Burbank's Zach Card changed all of that, skipping in a goal to end the drought and catapult the Bulldogs to a three-goal surge in the extra session that led them to a 9-7 win on Thursday afternoon at Burbank High.

"This is the team that Burbank is," said first-year Bulldogs Coach Kristina Garcia, who was still stewing over an upset loss to Pasadena in overtime on Tuesday before her team pulled out Thursday's nailbiting victory. "They stepped up immensely, more than ever. This is the best they've played."

While Burbank (6-4, 1-1), ranked eighth in CIF Southern Section Division V, was reeling from an overtime loss, the fifth-ranked Falcons (5-10, 1-1) were playing their third game in as many days, but Crescenta Valley Coach Jan Sakonju said it wasn't fatigue that was an issue, but lackluster offensive play, that led to CV's demise. The Falcons were held scoreless for the first five minutes 25 seconds of the match and, amazingly, the last 13:55 of the match.

"Shot selection was horrible and [we kept] hitting the bar," Sakonju said. "We had a horrible shooting day. Just the execution [of the offense] was off."

Still, the teams were deadlocked after Crescenta Valley's Nate Fernandez scored a man-advantage tally with 1:32 to go in the third. But a lot of good defense and plenty of not-so good offense was showcased in a scoreless fourth quarter.

The most dangerous offensive weapon in the pool on Thursday was clearly the right arm of Card, though, who had a match-high five goals, with his last coming at the 2:34 mark of the first half of overtime to put his team ahead, 7-6. A Daniel Gonzalez goal followed with 54 seconds to go, sending the Bulldogs fans into a delirium. In the second half of overtime, Burbank looked to run out the clock, but had an opening on the outside and Card had a solid shot that was saved, only to see Dante Nazarian poke in the rebound for an insurmountable 9-6 lead with 1:40 remaining in overtime.

"We needed this like nothing else. I've never seen these guys more focused," said Card of his team's outlook coming into the match after falling to Pasadena. "My heart was about to burst from all the pressure [in the scoreless fourth period]. In the fourth quarter, [the Falcons'] defense really got together, fortunately, their offense didn't follow suit."

And in overtime, Card's goal — though Gonzalez' stood as the game-winner — clearly ignited the Bulldogs' offense and Burbank as a whole.

"We're a very emotional team," Card said. "We were just riding that momentum."

Gonzalez had a pair of goals, as did Nazarian, who added four steals and an assist, while goalie Derek Baer had 11 saves and Sean Savoy also had four steals. For the Falcons, goalie Robert Menke had eight saves and three steals, while Fernandez led the Falcons with three goals and two assists, followed by Brian Dertli's two tallies. Griffin Harting and Daniel Park had single scores.

Card gave Burbank the lead on a perimeter shot 37 seconds into the match and the Bulldogs were off, with Nazarian and Gonzalez following with scores, as the Falcons were down early after another sluggish start — an ill that had been remedied in its previous two matches, but has plagued them for much of the season.

"We've been working on that," said Sakonju, whose team's early struggles came as the Falcons seemingly were taking either up-close shots with little on them that went right at Baer or off-balance perimeter shots from bad angles.

But after their hot start, the Bulldogs went cold. Goals by Dertli, Harting and Park consecutively tied the match and truly began the match's see-saw feel thereafter.

Card pulled Burbank back ahead when he was fed a pinpoint pass from Baer and scored on a breakaway, with the Bulldogs taking a 4-3 halftime lead.

Off an Andrew Lockwood steal, Fernandez tied the match at 4 with 6:07 to go in the third, setting off a wild back-and-forth, as Burbank then went back ahead with a Card score before Fernandez tied it once more. Card tallied a five-meter shot to go right back up only to have Fernandez score another equalizer at the 1:32 mark of third. The period would prove to be CV's most successful, as it outscored Burbank, 4-2.

However, the Bulldogs' defense adjusted, furthering the Falcons' offensive woes.

"They started doubling whoever had the ball and we were unable to get the ball over to the open guy," said Sakonju, who added that his team lacking a go-to scorer in crunch time has also been a problem. "We're a balanced team, so without a standout like a Tristan Winterhalter or an Alan Dearman, it gets jumbled up and we need to work on that."

In the divisional rankings at least, Thursday's Bulldogs win was an upset, but after they lost to an unranked Pasadena team which lost to Hoover on Thursday, it's clear that the league race, with No. 1 Glendale predicted as the top team, could be most unpredictable.

"We knew that Burbank would be desperate [after the Pasadena loss]. We were prepared for a team that was up," Sakonju said. "We have to watch the game tape, learn from our mistakes, polish up the fundamentals and move on."

And, obviously, Burbank is looking to move on with a great deal more momentum.

"I think this is our stepping stone. I think we can continue this through the season," Garcia said. "I told the guys, 'We're the top dogs. You guys can't see it, but the coaches see it. The other teams don't know it, but we see it.'"

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