By Dick Dornan
BurbankNBeyond Sports Editor
Wednesday’s boys’ water polo match between Burbank and Burroughs proved to be a classic donnybrook. The two rivals slugged it out (figuratively) until the final seconds with Burbank hanging on by a thread, 13-12, to win the Pacific League contest at Burroughs. The Bulldogs never trailed in the wild shootout.
“This win was ultra-big for our program,” Burbank Coach Kristina Garcia said. “It places us with the number two seed in league. Our boys needed this win going into league finals and for their own confidence.”
“Because it was a cross-town rivalry we stepped it up,” Daniel Gonzalez added. “We are all really close friends and there is a lot of talk between us on the weekends.”
Both teams were physical from the outset as ejections were handed out by the officials at a frequent pace. Burbank jumped out early to a quick 2-0 lead only to see Burroughs respond back with two goals of its own to tie it with 2:45 left in the first quarter.
The teams traded goals and the first period ended with the game knotted at four apiece.
The Bulldogs, ranked No. 6 in the most recent CIF Division V poll, then flexed its muscles on both sides of the ball as it dominated the second period. Turnovers and missed offensive opportunities cost the Indians, including a wide-open look at goal on a 6-on-5 advantage that resulted in no scoring.
A 4-4 match became 8-4 in favor of BHS with 1:06 left when Sean Savoy scored off an assist from Zachary Card.
“We lost rhythm, stopped moving on offense and our shots were poor shooting choices which led to their counterattack,” Burroughs Coach Danny Garcia explained. “It put us in a hole. We came back and we wanted it so bad in the fourth quarter.”
Two goals by Dante Nazarian and some strong defensive play and fine goaltending by Derrick Baers helped Burbank take a 9-5 lead into intermission.
“We forced a bunch of turnovers, got a lot of steals and I made a couple really good blocks,” Baers said.
Nazarian scored two more goals in the third period to help Burbank maintain a four-goal lead at 11-7 entering the fourth period.
After a goal by the Indians’ Oscar Hernandez cut the lead to 11-8, Burbank countered with two goals including a 20-foot shot by Gonzalez that went off the hand of JBHS goalie Dillon Wiegand for a 13-8 Burbank lead with only 3:22 remaining in the game.
Just when the match appeared to be over, the Indians refused to go away. With Burbank on its heels and playing not to lose rather than playing to win, Burroughs staged a furious comeback the final three minutes.
“We played lax and not caring as much in the final quarter,” Baers said about the near collapse by the Bulldogs.
Casey Ueno scored back-to-back goals for the Indians followed by a nice shot into the upper left corner by teammate Daniel Mairena. JBHS captain Kevin Ueno then made a skip shot into the lower left corner with 41 seconds left. Suddenly the Bulldogs’ lead was cut to 13-12 and the large crowd was sensing a miracle on behalf of the Indians.
It almost came to fruition. A steal by Burroughs gave them the ball with 24 seconds left and a chance to send the match into overtime. But poor execution by the Indians and great defense by Card resulted in a 30-foot prayer by Casey Ueno that went wide right.
“That was a coaching error on my part,” Danny Garcia said. “I shouldn’t have run that play. Everyone knew Casey (Ueno) was going to shoot the ball and I should have run something completely different. I will take that one on me.”
Burbank escaped a late fourth quarter collapse to improve to 12-6 overall and 4-2 in league.
Burroughs fell to 11-6 and 2-3 in league with a must-win contest coming up on Friday at Pasadena (3-2 in league).
“The season is not nearly over,” Danny Garcia said. “Our heads are still up and we will come out even harder.”
The top-four teams from the league season compete in a league tournament next Tuesday and Thursday at Burbank High to determine the playoff participants from the Pacific League. Burbank clinched the No. 2 seed and will play No. 3 Crescenta Valley while Burroughs must defeat Pasadena to earn the No. 4 seed and play No. 1 Glendale.
Nazarian led Burbank with four goals while Gonzalez added three scores.
Casey Ueno scored five goals for Burroughs while his brother, Kevin, Mairena and Hernandez connected on two goals each.