By Rick Assad
A four-minute stretch in the second quarter of Burbank High’s encounter with Portola in a CIF Southern Section second round boys’ water polo playoff match threw a monkey wrench into the fray.
Ahead by one goal entering the second quarter, a one-goal lead for Burbank was turned into a four-goal deficit at halftime and resulted in a 14-13 setback at the Burroughs High pool on Thursday afternoon.
In that period, Portola, which outshot Burbank 27-26, took nine shots and connected on seven while Burbank made two of four.
“The second quarter killed us. They scored seven goals in the second quarter, and we had to play catch up the entire game,” Burbank coach David Arakelyan said. “I’m so proud of my boys for fighting and bringing the game back to literally the last shot. I told my boys whoever wins this game is going to go all the way and win CIF. Props to Portola. They’re a great team, and we came up just short.”
After Portola’s Max Minasyan’s goal from five yards and 6:22 left tied the match at 3-3, junior Avet Avetisyan added a tally from 10 yards with 5:23 on the clock giving Burbank a 4-3 cushion.
A six-goal barrage by Portola followed as Luke Porter’s goal with 4:25 and five yards made it 4-4.
Noam Garibi’s five-yarder and 3:32 left made it a one-goal lead and with 2:58, Minasyan’s nine-yarder increased the lead to 6-4.
Consecutive point-blank tallies from Ryder Tonkovich, who had a team-high four goals, made it 7-4 with two minutes left and 8-4 with 1:07 showing.
The scoring spree was capped with a three-yarder from Porter and 35 seconds left and a 9-4 lead.
Senior Andranik Bilbulyan, who led Burbank with four goals, ended the drought when he tossed in a five-yarder and 22 seconds left that cut the lead to 9-5.
In front of a supportive crowd, Burbank (20-11) came within one goal late in the game, but Portola (22-7) ended the match in its end of the pool.
Tonkovich’s five-meter penalty toss with 2:15 left on the clock in the match extended Portola’s advantage to 14-12.
A 12-yard throw from Burbank senior Rafael Gevorgyan scored his only goal with 6:39 left that narrowed the lead to 11-9.
Ryan Aminloo’s nine-yarder eighteen seconds later gave Portola a 12-9 edge.
Sophomore Jack Babelyan scored on a 10-yarder for Burbank to cut the lead to 12-10, but Garibi’s seven-yard throw with 5:12 left made it 13-10.
Burbank scored three of the next four goals as Avetisyan added a five-yarder with 3:32 left that sliced the lead to 13-11.
Junior Daniel Agazaryan’s tally from 14 yards and 2:57 left made it 13-12 in favor of Portola.
Agazaryan’s goal from seven yards and 1:42 left in the match cut the lead to 14-13, while Aminloo’s eight-yarder with 6:21 remaining saw Portola push ahead 12-9.
The initial period saw Burbank outscore Portola 3-2 as Bilbulyan tacked on a five-yard toss with 6:10 left for a 1-0 and Avetisyan added a three-yard tally with 3:20 left to tie it at 2-2.
Avetisyan struck again, this time from five yards with 33 seconds left for a 3-2 lead.
Portola scored on a seven-yarder from Garibi with 5:45 left that evened it at 1-1 and Porter added a point-blank tally with 3:57 remaining that handed the visitors a 2-1 lead.
Burbank found the net three times in the third frame while Portola scored two goals.
After junior Gevorg Choginyan’s seven-yarder with 6:11 left, Portola’s lead was trimmed to 9-6 and Bilbulyan’s seven-yarder with 5:18 on the clock narrowed the lead to 10-7.
Choginyan’s nine-yarder with 1:19 left saw Burbank draw within 10-8.
Portola’s Kasra Sowlati’s 10-yarder and 5:44 left gave the visitors a 10-6 lead and Tonkovich’s five-meter penalty throw with 1:07 made it 11-8.
The season didn’t end the way Burbank hoped it would, but Arakelyan knows the effort and time was there.
“I am proud of the season that we’ve had. Through all the highs and lows, we found our way back to the Pacific League championship and won it as a fourth seed, which has never been done before in our league,” he said. “To go out in a dog fight like this is all I can ask of my boys.”