Crescenta Valley High water polo overcomes Pasadena's physicality

BURBANK — Needing a victory to secure a berth in Thursday’s Pacific League Tournament championship game, the Crescenta Valley High boys’ water polo team overcame a sluggish third quarter in holding off Pasadena for a 13-8 victory in Tuesday’s tournament semifinal at Burbank High.

PHOTOS: Crescenta Valley vs. Pasadena in Pacific League championship boys' water polo

The victory propels the tournament second-seeded Falcons (15-8, 6-1) into a 5:30 p.m. showdown back at Burbank High versus reigning league champion Glendale (17-6, 7-0), the top seed.

“We know how good Glendale is and we’re looking forward to another chance against them,” Falcons senior Ryan Moguel said in reference to the Nitros’ thrilling 12-11 victory over the Falcons on Oct. 10. “They’re a big, physical team and it’s good that we have some experience against them.”

Physicality, though, seemed an issue for the Falcons as Pasadena (14-7, 4-3) trailed, 9-4, at halftime, but muscled its way within three goals behind scores from Matthew Klein and Ian Iverson Villanueva.

While the Bulldogs were scoring, they also seemed to be taking momentum as Pasadena forced three turnovers and held the Falcons to perimeter shots in the opening part of the third quarter.

Yet, the Falcons caught a break at the 2:57 mark in the third when Pasadena starting goalie Kyle Radcliffe was ejected from the game after being called for a misconduct penalty.

The penalty and Radcliffe’s dismissal stunted Pasadena’s charge as Crescenta Valley struggled to get going offensively.

Finally, the Falcons answered on a goal from Nate Fernandez (two goals and two assists) off an assist from Trevor Goddard (three assists and two steals) at 1:03 in the third, which put the Falcons up, 10-6.

While Pasadena closed with a goal right before the end of the third quarter from Iverson Villanueva, the Falcons opened the fourth with three consecutive goals, the last courtesy of Brandon Fernandez (assisted by Moguel) with 2:31 remaining that cemented the contest as the Falcons were ahead, 13-7.

“I know it’s tough sometimes as a goalie when you’re trying to do your job and people are getting in your way,” said Falcons goalie George Vine IV (nine saves) of the game-changing misconduct ejection, “but you have to keep your head.”

Crescenta Valley netted the first three goals of the game and led Pasadena, 4-1, after the first quarter thanks in part to three of Moguel’s team-high four goals.

The Falcons then took control in the second, winning the frame, 5-3, highlighted by a last-second score from Cameron Kober.

Omar Trad added two goals and two assists for Crescenta Valley.

“Today was definitely physical and we’re going to have to a better job. The playoffs are right around the corner,” Falcons Coach Jan Sakonju said. “We’re definitely going to have that challenge on Thursday.”

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