By Rick Assad
A storybook ending for the Burbank High boys’ water polo team fell short of its mark on Saturday night.
Facing Carpinteria in the CIF Southern Section Division V championship match, the Bulldogs were outscored 6-3 in the second half and lost 12-9 at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatic Center on the campus of Irvine High.
Senior Johnny Agazaryan was held to three goals, four less than his season average.
Junior Zack Gezalyan chipped in with three tallies, senior Hovannes Baboudjian added two and sophomore Andranik Bilbulyan scored one.
The Warriors were paced by Asher Smith’s match-best seven goals and the sophomore knocked in four tallies in the second half.
Carpinteria (26-4) held a one-goal advantage heading to the second quarter, but was outscored 3-2 in the second period.
“It takes a lot of grit and determination to get somewhere like a CIF Final. To get to the Woollett Aquatic Center,” Burbank coach David Arakelyan said of this incredible journey to get to play for a championship. “That was our goal from the beginning, to get to Woollett and see if the cards fell our way. The cards didn’t fall our way, but that’s sports. That happens.”
Arakelyan, who starred and won a CIF title at Burroughs, believes that the Bulldogs will be back.
“We’re going to take this as a big learning lesson and just hopefully the younger classmen can get a little confidence from this,” he said. “To see that we can get here and that we just have to work a little bit harder in order to take what’s ours.”
Several players, including Agazaryan, came close to scoring more goals, but hit the crossbar or the posts.
Still, Arakelyan feels Agazaryan will have an impressive college career.
“I’m so proud of him. If that kid does not go to a university or college and play water polo, it’s a disgrace. It really is. That kid is amazing,” he said. “All he thinks about is that sport. All he wants to do is play water polo. He’s got the body and the size and the frame for it. I think he’s one of the top players in his class. He hasn’t reached his full potential.”
The game’s initial tally was accounted for by Bilbulyan with 3:44 left and came from nine feet.
Agazaryan’s 12-foot lob with 1:12 left evened it at 2-2 and Agazaryan’s 10-footer cut Carpinteria’s lead to 4-3.
“We were definitely motivated. We definitely had what it took. It came down to who wanted it more,” Agazaryan said. “We were both very talented teams. At the end of the day, it looks like they wanted it more. They deserved it. They deserve everything that came to them.”
Junior Justin Main’s 16-foot toss and 3:22 on the ticker leveled it at 1-1 and Smith’s five-footer with 1:34 on the clock gave the Warriors a 2-1 lead.
Senior Emilio Handall’s five-meter penalty throw with 57 seconds left pushed Carpinteria in front 3-2.
When Smith found the back of the net on a seven-foot looper 42 seconds later, it became a two-goal lead.
The second quarter began with each team scoring as Baboudjian drilled a 10-footer with 5:20 left that evened it at 4-4, while Smith’s five-meter penalty shot with 4:38 left saw the Warriors zoom ahead 5-4.
Burbank (25-3) had a chance to tie the match at 5-5, but Agazaryan missed a five-meter penalty throw as junior goalie Jacob Taft collected a block with 3:34 on the clock.
Burbank then scored twice to Carpinteria’s one and it was deadlocked at 6-6 at the intermission.
Gezalyan’s 12-footer with 2:52 showing tied it at 5-5 and Agazaryan’s 14-footer with 14 seconds remaining leveled it at 6-6.
Smith scored back-to-back tallies to make it a two-goal cushion, but Baboudjian’s 10-foot goal with 4:31 left in the third quarter sliced Carpinteria’s lead to 8-7.
Smith’s 10-footer tally with 6:08 made it 7-6 and Smith’s seven-footer with 4:47 left extended the margin to 8-6.
Smith’s eight-footer with 4:20 on the clock made it 9-7 and Smith’s tally, which saw him get past the Burbank goalie, senior Narek Galmadaryan, gave him clear sailing with a push into the net with 1:38 left stretched the Warriors’ lead to 10-7.
Gezalyan’s 10-footer with four seconds remaining on the ticker sliced the lead to 10-8.
A 20-footer from senior Zachary Isaac with 4:50 left made it 11-8 in the fourth quarter and Smith’s five-meter penalty toss and 2:36 left extended the advantage to four goals at 12-8.
Gezalyan’s eight-footer with 2:19 on the scoreboard trimmed the Warriors’ lead to 12-9.