By Rick Assad
When a defense is fully in sync and it’s pumping on all cylinders, it’s a thing of beauty.
For the Burbank High boys’ water polo team, its defense was in full bloom when it faced Cathedral in a CIF Southern Section Division V second-round match at the Burroughs pool.
The result was an 18-6 thumping on Thursday and it set up a quarterfinal game on Saturday versus Valley View, which narrowly escaped with a 9-7 decision over South Torrance.
Opportunities to score by the visitors were few and far between, with only occasional success when a player was close enough to the goal to get off a high-percentage shot.
Burbank coach David Arakleyan, who played for Burroughs not too long ago, was impressed by what he witnessed.
“The defense was the key, especially in the second and third quarters,” he said. “We allowed two early goals to go in and that made our defense wake up and clamp down, making sure we didn’t give up any easy goals.”
Offensively, as usual, the Bulldogs, the No. 2 seed in these playoffs and the No. 2 team ranked in the division, were paced by Johnny Agazaryan with a match-best seven goals, including five tallies at the intermission.
Hovannes Baboudjian scored three goals, Hayk Atanasyan added two tallies and six players each scored one goal.
“I was very impressed with our ball movement and how we were able to find the open guy frequently,” Arakelyan said. “Slow start, but we have to make sure we don’t start off slow like that in the quarterfinals.”
Burbank (20-2 and 8-0 for first place in the Pacific League) built a 3-2 edge heading into the second period and outscored the Phantoms 7-0 in the second frame.
The Bulldogs, who now have a 17-match winning streak, dropped three goals in the third quarter while limiting Cathedral (9-8 and 8-4 for third place in the Valle Vista League) to one goal and found the back of the net five times in the fourth period while the Phantoms managed three goals.
Right out of the gate the Bulldogs tallied three straight goals with Agazaryan doing the honors from six feet and 5:01 left to make it 1-0.
A four-footer by Agazaryan followed 59 seconds later that extended the lead to 3-0.
In between, Baboudjian found the net on a 10-meter penalty toss with 4:25 on the clock as the Bulldogs marched ahead 2-0.
Gabriel Fonseca scored both goals from close range for Cathedral and they came with 3:29 showing to slice the lead to 3-1 and with 1:17 left as the cushion was trimmed to 3-2.
The second frame looked like a scoring festival as Atanasyan on a slick assist from Agazaryan scored from point-blank range to make it 4-2 as 6:34 remained.
Agazaryan’s nine-footer found the mark with 4:38 remaining to push the lead to 5-2.
Agazaryan had another assist when Andranik Bilbulyan scored with 3:59 left on a six-footer that made it 6-2.
Bilbulyan’s nifty pass to Atanasyan on a short-shot with 2:32 left on the clock extended the lead to 7-2 and Agazaryan’s eight-footer thirty-one seconds later saw Burbank slide in front 8-2.
When Baboudjian launched an eight-footer with 1:19 left, Burbank’s advantage became 9-2.
Agazaryan’s 10-foot toss and 1.6 seconds left saw the lead become an eight-point margin.
The third period commenced with Burbank tallying two consecutive goals that included a nine-foot tally from Sevan Mahdessian on an assist from Agazaryan for an 11-2 edge with 6:27 left and a eight-footer by Agazaryan with 5:17 on the clock for a 10-point lead.
Noah Sawyer broke the spell for the Phantoms with a five-footer at 2:28 that sliced the lead to 12-3.
However, Andy Gezalyan chipped in with a seven-footer for the Bulldogs and 1:20 left to increase the lead to 10 goals.
Burbank came out in the fourth period and seized control 14-3 on a nine-footer from Agazaryan with 5:34 on the clock as the cushion swelled to 14-3.
Arthur Saryan’s 10-meter penalty shot twenty-three seconds later saw the lead balloon to a dozen.
Baboudjian’s 12-footer with 4:34 left made it 16-4, Eric Avetisyan’s five-footer with 3:28 left made it a 12-point lead and Danny Agazaryan’s seven-footer with 39 seconds left capped off the scoring and made it a 12-point bulge.
The Phantoms received scores from Michael Molina on a six-footer with 4:44 left that lowered the lead to 15-4, Sawyer’s six-footer with 3:46 on the clock trimmed it to 16-5 and Fonseca’s seven-footer with 2:37 left shaved Burbank’s lead to 11 points.
The Bulldogs outshot the Phantoms 17-11 in the first half and 38-26 in the match.