Spartans steamroll into semis

BURBANK — For a span of more than 12 minutes on Saturday afternoon, the La Cañada High boys’ water polo team held visiting Corona Santiago without a goal.

Equally impressive and perhaps more devastating, the Spartans riddled the Sharks for 11 goals in that same span.

Behind an opportunistically dominant defense, a potently accurate offense and a tidal wave of momentum, No. 1 seed La Cañada made an emphatic statement with a 19-7 throttling of Santiago in the CIF Southern Section Division III quarterfinals at Burbank High.

“Eleven-0 run, obviously that put the game away,” said first-year Spartans Coach Devon Borisoff, whose team advanced to Wednesday’s semifinal against Palos Verdes at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in Irvine. “We feel good going into the semis. Guys are playing well right now. I think we’re peaking at the right time now.

“We definitely should have confidence, we’re rocking and rolling right now.”

After a contentious start, the Spartans (22-8), champions of the Rio Hondo League, began rolling right over Santiago (17-10), which took second in the Big VIII League.

Leading, 5-4, after the opening quarter, the Spartans began to dominate when Symeon Stefan, who tallied a match-high seven goals, tallied a natural hat trick in a stanza that La Cañada won, 3-0.

With an 8-4 halftime lead, the Spartans’ dominance began in the second quarter, but reached its zenith in the third quarter, as they ran off seven straight goals to start, building a 15-4 lead.

“I feel like we had a little bit of a rough start in the beginning, but then we started figuring out what they were doing,” said La Cañada’s Peter Loakes, who had the final goal of the run, his only score of the match, but added eight steals and three assists. “We were kind of unstoppable in the second and third quarters.”

Unstoppable and impenetrable.

In the second quarter, Santiago had but one shot and that didn’t come until there was 3:18 to go in the half. For the game, the Spartans garnered 25 steals.

“We were playing really good defense after the first quarter,” Loakes said.

Offensively, the Spartans were deadly. They scored on their first seven shots of the third quarter.

In all, six Spartans scored, with Stefan also tallying five steals, Alden Gellar coming up huge with five goals and three steals, Chase Borisoff notching three goals and three assists, Johnny Louk scoring a pair of goals and Bryce Hopkins adding a tally.

“Everybody was just doing their thing today,” Stefan said.

During the 11-0 run that sealed the game and defined the domination of the Spartans on Saturday, they hit 11 of 18 shots while the defense was holding the Sharks scoreless for 12:49 until Tanner Shore, who had four goals, broke the run with 1:41 to go in the third. His tally made it 15-5 and the rest of the match was essentially just time to fill before the Spartans could officially celebrate their second straight semifinal berth.

During the run, back-to-back goals accentuated just how well the Spartans were playing.

A Loakes steal was followed by a quick pass to Stefan, who sparked a breakaway and dished to Borisoff for a score with 3:27 to go in the third. A timeout followed and so did another turnover. This time it was a steal by Stefan, who passed up to Borisoff, who then fed an open Loakes for a goal just 17 seconds after Borisoff’s score.

“We watched film on them and knew what they were gonna do,” Devon Borisoff said. “If we start getting turnovers, we are a dangerous counter-attack team.”

Rounding out the overall excellence on the day, goalie Jeff Lee had eight saves, including stopping a five-meter attempt.

Said Stefan: “We’re going into the semis feeling good.”

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