CLOSE CALL: Pasadena Poly s Omar Dairi, lower left, shoots against Los Altos goalie David Herrera in the first half of the Panthers 10-9 victory on Wednesday.
(Keith Birmingham / Staff Photographer)
By Steve Ramirez, SGVN
PASADENA – Pasadena Poly didn’t become one of the better boys water polo teams in the CIF-Southern Section without learning how to dodge a few land mines.
The Panthers showed that prowess Wednesday.
Spencer Rogers scored with two minutes left in the fourth quarter and Poly forced back-to-back turnovers in the final minute to score a 10-9 victory over visiting Los Altos in a nonleague game that featured two of the better teams in Division 5.
The Panthers, getting four goals from Rogers and 14 saves from Josh Ball, improved to 1-1. Poly, ranked No.2 in Division 5, opened the season with a loss to top-ranked La Serna.
Los Altos, which rallied from a 6-1 deficit to force a tie at 9 late in the fourth, received three goals from Justin Contreras. The Conquerors (1-1), who beat Ayala in their opener, are ranked No. 7 in Division 5.
“We called a time out with about three minutes left to remind them about being patient,” Poly coach Ryan Katsuyama said. “It’s just a matter of focusing on our defense, being patient with the ball. With Los Altos playing a press defense, it was going to present opportunities to open up things for (Rogers). He drew an ejection late that ended up giving us our goal.
“We still have a few things to work on, but overall I’m happy with the win. I was proud with how the guys held on to it at the end.”
For a while, it didn’t look like a heroic finish would be needed.
Poly, getting back-to-back goals in the first quarter from Brock Hudnut and consecutive tallies from Rogers in the second quarter, built a 6-1 lead with five minutes left in the first half.
But Los Altos slowly cut into the advantage. Jason Chacon scored on a deflection and Contreras followed from about 3 meters to make it 7-3 by halftime.
Alex Nazaroff scored from the inside on a pass from Isaac Cruz to trim it to 9-6 after three quarters before Los Altos made its first three shots to tie it at 9 with just under three minutes to play.
Edgar Reyes scored on a back-hand shot at 5:54 before back-to-back goals by William Cervantes at 5:01 and 2:46.
“We didn’t change anything, we just told (the players) to wake up,” said Los Altos coach Chris Coleman, whose Conquerors held Poly to 1-of-5 shooting over the final eight minutes. “I think it helped coming here last year and seeing (the Panthers) in the CIF playoffs and end our season.
“We wanted to begin (this) season going forward and give it to them, and we almost did. Losing 10-9, it’s not bad. It was just one or two blunders at the end.”
Poly, after giving up the lead, responded quickly.
Rogers forced an ejection on the next possession, then beat Los Altos goalie David Herrera from the hole at 2:19 for a 10-9 advantage.
The Conquerors had three chances to tie it, but were foiled on each occasion.
Los Altos was called for an offensive foul at 2:03 before Chris McWilliams followed with a steal at 1:29.
The Conquerors, then after forcing a miss from the Panthers, were again charged with an offensive foul with 16 seconds left, allowing Poly to run out the clock.