By Rick Assad
Balls were flying around like guided missiles and goals were being tallied in bunches during the Pacific League boys’ water polo regular season finale between Burroughs High and host Burbank on Wednesday afternoon.
The Indians, the No. 1-seeded team when the league playoffs commence next Tuesday at Arcadia, jumped ahead early and were never headed en route to a 27-21 win behind senior utility David Arakelyan’s career and team-high 14 goals.
Burroughs, along with Crescenta Valley and Hoover, all finished in a three-way tie for first place in league play.
“Both sides know each other really well,” Arakelyan said. “We play club together, most of our guys and most of their guys. We wanted to have fun today. But also wanted to come in serious and hard.”
Arakelyan went on: “We wanted to come in to set the tone for next week, to really play against CV and Hoover no matter what the draw is. We don’t care about a coin flip. We don’t care who we end up playing. We’re going to win next week.”
Arakelyan chimed in with five goals in the opening quarter as the Indians led 8-2.
Arakelyan’s goal from four feet with six minutes remaining made it 1-0 and Arakelyan’s 10-foot backhander with 4:39 left pushed the advantage to 2-1.
Another backhanded tally from Arakelyan, this time from five feet and 2:30 on the clock gave the Indians (12-12 and 5-1 in league) a 4-1 edge.
“We wanted to come in here after that tough loss against CV with really guns blazing,” Arakelyan said. “We wanted to come out really hard and fortunately my teammates got me the ball and I put it in the cage. I like creating space for myself to shoot the ball. Also they give me the perfect passes. Our starters click really well.”
Twenty-eight seconds later, Arakelyan’s five-foot rocket made it 5-1 and his six-foot blast with 1:24 on the clock pushed the lead to 6-2.
Senior driver Brandon Wilson scored both goals for the Bulldogs in the opening frame and finished with a match-best 16 goals.
“I didn’t expect it to be as high scoring, but it was definitely a fun game and I’m glad that even though we lost to Burroughs everybody had fun,” Burbank coach Allyson Young said. “I saw my players grow as a team and grow as individual players.”
Young said that she could ask for an at-large bid to compete in the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
Arakelyan was once again steady, tossing in five goals in the second frame as Burroughs shuffled ahead 13-8 at halftime.
An eight-footer from Arakelyan with 5:40 left made it 9-3 and his 12-footer with 4:55 showing extended the margin to 10-4.
When Arakelyan found the back of the net from eight feet and 3:04 left before the half, the Indians dashed ahead 11-5.
Arakelyan’s 12-footer with 1:51 on the ticker made it 12-7 and his 20-footer with 57 seconds on the clock saw the Indians forge a 13-7 cushion.
“Both teams had fun,” Burroughs coach Jacob Cook said. “They were joking around and having fun.”
Wilson was the primary scorer in the second period for Burbank (7-11 and 1-5 in league for sixth place) after knocking in six goals and coming within 13-8 at the break.
The Indians had a more balanced attack in the third quarter as Arakelyan and senior utility J.J. Ambartsumyan each drilled in two goals.
Wilson’s three goals in the third period helped the Bulldogs climb to within 20-14 heading into the final quarter.
Five players scored for Burroughs in the fourth quarter with Arakelyan and junior setter/defender Richard Legoretta each hammering in two goals.
Wilson contributed six scores in the final stanza, including tallies that enabled the Bulldogs to get within 20-16 on a 10-footer with 6:13 left and 24-17 on an eight-footer with 3:28 showing.
Wilson scored the final three goals of the match and four of the last six goals including an eight-footer with 2:21 left that sliced the lead to 25-18 and a five-footer with seven seconds remaining that made it 27-21.
Senior setter Marko Vucetic had four goals for the Indians, while junior driver Varuzhan Bilbulyan collected two tallies for the Bulldogs.