By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
Nogales High School’s Nick Estevez was so caught up in making sure the Nobles advanced to Saturday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 7 water polo final, he had no idea he was inching closer to inking his hame in the history books. Estevez’s fifth and final goal late in the fourth quarter, a no-look, back-handed whip off the side netting, gave him 229 goals — matching the CIF-SS single-season record set by Hoover’s Hakop Kaplanyan in 2009. (To continue click thread).
Damien advances: It wasn’t beating Palos Verdes 10-8 in Wednesday’s CIF-Southern Section Division III boys water polo semifinals that was the most impressive part of Damien’s afternoon at the William Woollett Aquatics Center. It was how the Spartans did it.
Bonita’s dramatic overtime victory: Keaton Renta scored four goals, including the eventual game-winner, and Matt Zachary had a steal with three seconds left in overtime as Bonita reached the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 championship game with a 10-9 win over defending champion La Serna in Wednesday’s semifinals.
Below: Nogales’ Nick Estevez after tying the CIF-SS record with 229 goals.
Wednesday’s CIF-Southern Section Boys Water Polo Semifinals
Laguna Beach 14, La Canada 5
Damien 10, Palos Verdes 8
Laguna Beach vs. Damien, 11:45 a.m., Irvine
Nogales 8, Santa Ynez 6
Don Lugo 9, Nipomo 8
Nogales vs. Don Lugo, 9:15, Irvine.
Pasadena Poly 13, Hoover 6
Bonita 10, La Serna 9, 2 OTs
Pasadena Poly vs. Bonita, 5:30 p.m.
But more importantly, it helped the Nobles fend off stubborn Santa Ynez 8-6 in Wednesday’s semifinals at Mt. San Antonio College.
“Nobody told me,” Estevez said when asked if he knew he was closing in on a CIF record. “I was just playing my game trying to score as much as I could to get our team back in the finals.”
It was Santa Ynez that Nogales defeated in last year’s championship that gave the Nobles their first water polo title in history.
Needless to say, the Nobles knew it wouldn’t be easy.
“Going back to the final means so much more because we know they (Santa Ynez) wanted to beat us in the rematch,” said Nogales goalkeeper Christiaan Ortiz, who finished with 12 saves. “They were out for blood.”
The second-seed Nogales will compete for their second straight crown against Don Lugo, a 9-8 winner over top-seed Nipomo, in Saturday’s championship at the William Woollett Jr., Aquatics Center in Irvine at 9:15 a.m.
“I came to Nogales not expecting much,” said Estevez, now a a senior. “Things just fell into place. We got the right guys at the pool deck with a great coaching staff and teamwork. This team isn’t big, but we’re a family and we fight together.”
Nogales led 4-0 after Estevez’s third goal with 4:19 left in the second quarter.
But when Estevez picked up his second penalty and left the game fearing he could pick up his third foul, which would have removed him from the game for good, Santa Ynez took advantage and got back in it.
Karl Fredrickson, who led the Pirates with three goals, scored with 5:15 left in the third to trim the Nobles’ lead to 4-3.
Estevez quickly returned and scored to make it 5-3, then Anthony Ramirez finished a long shot to extend the Nobles’ lead to 6-3.
“I couldn’t allow my emotions or dumb defense to get in the way,” Estevez said. “It’s bigger than just me out there. I had to come back and set things right and it all came together in the end. We played great defense (in the fourth).”
Nogales can also thank Ortiz for having a 4-1 cushion at half.
Ortiz stopped five point-blank shots — the only goal he allowed was on a penalty shot in the final seconds of the half.
“I just tried to focus as much as I could,” Ortiz said. “It’s been a trend for us that if I start off sloppy, we tend to be sloppy. I came out as hard as I could trying to fire everyone up.”
The Nobles also received a goal from Ramon Sanchez and Patrick Phommachanh, but it was their defense in the fourth that made the difference.
As important as Estevez is on offense, he spent most of the fourth quarter on defense with the Nobles leading 6-4 and fending off several Pirates breakaways that could have trimmed the lead to one.
But Phommachanh gave the Nobles some breathing room with a goal with 1:52 left to go up 7-4.
After Santa Ynez’s Lukas Lastra responded with a quick goal to cut the lead to 7-5, Estevez reacted with the goal of the match and the one that tied the record to push the Nobles’ lead to 8-5 with 1:08 left.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Nogales coach Alexander Matal said of Estevez’s scoring record. “He scored almost a 100 more than last year.”
Nogales, which had never won a boys water polo title until last year, now gets to compete for its second straight crown and with it, Estevez could also become the single-season all-time record holder if he scores on Saturday.
“That would be pretty amazing,” Matal said.