SOUTH PASADENA — The South Pasadena High boys’ water polo team played a great first half in its CIF Southern Section Division III quarterfinal playoff match at home against Martin Luther King on Saturday.
Unfortunately, the solid play didn't carry over into the second half.
“They're a much more experienced team than us,” said South Pasadena sophomore goalie Will Renken, who notched 11 saves in the loss. “Overall they were a better team than we were. We played our hearts out. We had a great three quarters and they pulled away in the fourth.”
South Pasadena's Pierce Deamer tied the match at 6 with a goal early in the third. From there, it was all Wolves.
King (25-7) closed out the contest on a 7-1 run.
Penalties plagued the Tigers against the more physical Wolves. Starters Wyatt Bukowski and Deamer each had two ejections in the first half and Ryan McCarthy picked up his second in the third period.
“They definitely put us in early foul trouble,” said South Pasadena assistant Michael Gonzales, who’s taken over many of the coaching duties as head coach Robert Echeverria coached his final game with the boys’ team on Saturday as he will be an assistant with Pasadena City College next season. “They definitely exposed our lack of depth on the bench. That's really what separated them at the end.”
Gonzales emphasized the impact of the size and depth of his team's opponent.
“Our game plan was to keep the movement continuous throughout,” he said. “There were a couple of times when the offense was stagnant. That's the result when you wrestle big boys for 28 minutes.”
Things looked promising early on. The Tigers took a 2-1 lead after goals from Adrian Suarez and Alex Zoueihed, and Deamer connected from mid-pool with time running out in the first period to give his squad an early 3-2 advantage.
After a goal from Cameron Lee and another from Suarez, the Tigers were up 5-4 late in the second period and poised to take a lead into halftime. But King scored two goals in 22 seconds — the first a penalty shot, the second a strike from close to mid-pool — for the 6-5 advantage going into the break.
“That's a result of inexperience,” Gonzales said. “A lot of the goals that they scored in the first half were a result of us shooting ourselves in the foot, taking outside shots, shots they were conceding to us in times when we should have been driving through.”
Deamer led South Pasadena with three goals. King's Lucas Ritter paced all scorers with four goals.
The Tigers closed the season with a 20-10 record.
“I'm proud of the way the season resulted,” Gonzales said. “You saw these guys really re-collect themselves midway through and make this final push.”
In addition to Saturday's 11-save effort, Renken logged 16 saves in a first round win against Montebello. He's sees brighter days ahead.
“Next season we're going to be a great team,” Renken said. “We're going to be as good if not better than we were this season, and hopefully we'll be able to go further next year.”