LAGUNA BEACH — It appeared the game was won for the La Cañada High boys' water polo team when, with a one-goal lead, it forced a Laguna Beach turnover with 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
La Cañada's Chase Borisoff grabbed the steal, which allowed the Spartans to cling to their lead and run out the clock by playing keep-away from the Breakers' defense.
Then, Laguna got a turnover of its own with about 15 seconds left on the clock. The Breakers worked the ball around until Caleb Scott buried a Laguna goal to tie the game at 9 with five seconds left, sending it into overtime. La Cañada Coach Steve Neville believed the equalizer should have never counted, since it looked like to him, and the rest of his coaching staff, that the Breakers forced the turnover on a foul.
"It happens all the time in games like that," Neville said. "Referees sometimes just decide to swallow their whistle and you can't control that."
The Breakers carried the momentum they'd built up into overtime, to secure a 14-11 victory on the heels of a 5-1 run. Both coaches saw some extra fire in their players Tuesday, as both squads realized the game could be a playoff preview.
"We know La Cañada is one of the top teams in [CIF Southern Section] Division III and we expect them to be in the CIF semifinals this year," Breakers Coach Ethan Damato said.
Entering Tuesday's contest, Laguna Beach (12-4) sat atop of the CIF Southern Section Division III polls and La Cañada (10-5) was four slots down at No. 5.
"Whoever wins this game is going to be No. 1 or stay No. 1," Neville said. "It was a humongous game."
The end result was a far cry from the first three quarters, where La Cañada controlled the game. The Spartans took a 5-3 lead at halftime, behind two goals from Trevor Roszkos.
La Cañada built a three-goal lead, 8-5, heading into the fourth quarter, which figured to be enough for the Spartans, who hadn't given up more than two goals in either of the first three quarters.
"I didn't think we played very well in the first three quarters," Damato said. "It took us a while to get going, but we showed a ton of resiliency. We made enough plays to win."
The Breakers scored four goals in the final quarter, while allowing just one La Cañada goal from Allen Morovati — who also scored in overtime, as did Roszkos.
Both Morovati and Roszkos led the Spartans in goals with three each. Roszkos also had two assists. Symeon Stefan also had two goals for La Cañada. La Cañada goalie Wolfie Paulson racked up 12 saves in the game.
Neville was encouraged by his entire team's performance Tuesday.
"I thought they played better than they played all season long," Neville said. "I've been waiting for this to happen and luckily it happened at the right time. I couldn't have asked for anything more."