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Stingy defense has been a trademark of the San Clemente boys' water polo team all season. Now that the offense is coming around, the Tritons are looking like viable contenders for the Southern Section Division I title next month.
San Clemente's latest triumph was a 7-6 victory over Santa Ana Foothill on Friday in a nonleague game at Lake Forest El Toro High.
The Knights came into the game ranked No. 4 by The Times.
San Clemente's shooting percentage has improved to the high 40s in the last five games, compared to only 21% through the first 13.
Leading the way has been driver Sam Bassett, who has made nine of 11 shots in his last three games.
"Shooting had been horrendous," Coach Marc Parker said.
Though the Tritons had trouble making shots early this season, they've been able to stay close against teams such as Los Alamitos and Long Beach Wilson because of their tough defense.
Kyle Healy, a 6-foot-5 transfer from Hacienda Heights Los Altos, has taken over much of the two-meter defensive responsibilities, giving Parker more options for other defenders.
"That has allowed some of our other guards to isolate on the other teams' best driver," Parker said.
Against Foothill, the Tritons allowed only one goal in each of the first two quarters and had a 7-4 lead going into the fourth quarter. Foothill's leading scorers, Frank Reynolds and J.W. Krumpholz, were limited to one goal each.
"Our goal was to hold [Reynolds and Krumpholz] under four goals," Parker said.
Up next for San Clemente is a trip to Northern California this weekend for the Tru-West Invitational, a 16-team tournament at San Jose Lynbrook and Bellarmine highs, featuring top teams from across the state.
The Tritons conclude their season with a much-anticipated South Coast League matchup with host El Toro on Nov. 6. The Chargers have beaten San Clemente by one goal in each of the last four years to win the league title.
No Time to Savor Win
La Verne Damien didn't have much time to enjoy its 7-4 victory over cross-town rival Bonita on Saturday.
The Spartans, ranked No. 6 by The Times, follow that game by playing No. 1 Anaheim Servite in an opening-round game of the North Orange County tournament.
They then were scheduled to play Sierra League rival Chino Hills Ayala on Tuesday and will conclude the week with more games in the challenging North Orange County tournament.
"Everybody is guaranteed five good games," Damien Coach Andrew Gates said of the tournament.
Gates is hoping his Spartans play better than they did against Bonita (14-5), the defending Southern Section Division VI champion. Damien took a 4-1 lead and then held on to win behind three goals by Grant Miller and 15 saves by goalkeeper Xande Wright.
"We hadn't played in a week and came out real rusty," Gates said. "We went up, 4-1, and then played like dirt the rest of the way."
Into the Frying Pan
Servite also has a challenging weekend ahead, even though the Friars are the only team among the top six ranked by The Times not participating in the Tru-West Invitational.
In addition to its games in the North Orange County tournament this week, Servite is traveling to North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake today for a nonleague game against the Southland's No. 2 team.
The teams met earlier this season in the final of the S&R Sport Cup. Servite won, 8-7, and took over the No. 1 ranking from the Wolverines.