Water-Polo Heartbreaker: Tigers’ Season Is Over

The South Pasadena boys varsity water-polo team lost to Schurr High, 7-6, last Thursday in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoffs in a “home” game that actually was played at the Temple City High pool due to the South Pas pool being a few inches short of CIF playoff regulations.

But whatever the location, according to head coach Michael Gonzales, the defeat “really, really hurts.”

“It sucks to lose that way, and it sucks to see the kids feel prepared and not perform their best game and to see them heartbroken afterwards,” said Gonzales

“They put their hearts into that game, and unfortunately we didn’t perform our best, especially offensively. Defensively, I thought we played a pretty darn good game. I thought we did things differently defensively the second time around (in this rematch against Schurr), but man — it hurts. It really, really hurts. But it’s all the more reason for all of us to be that much better come 2020.”

The Tigers finished 18-11 overall, got to the second round of the playoffs and won the Rio Hondo League for a second straight year. And the team is losing only two seniors this year — Evan Kowal and Brett Sonner — so next year already looks promising.

Schurr went up 2-0 in the first quarter, but the Tigers tied the game on scores by junior Maven Palacios and sophomore Owen Imasaki. The second quarter saw two goals by Schurr, and the Spartans’ lead was 4-2 at the break.

In quarter three, Schurr scored twice and was leading by four before a goal by sophomore Michael Felix made the South Pas deficit 6-3.

“I told them that, rationally, for more than enough reasons, we were still in it,” Gonzales said. “We know that we can string together four goals in five possessions. … I think the biggest message was to stay in it — to know that we were definitely still in it, especially in a big game like that.”

The Tigers started the final period on the attack and quickly scored twice — one goal by junior Eddie Lane-Flannigan and another by Imasaki. It was a one-point game, and the Tigers had to make sure they played solid defense — but it wasn’t enough. Schurr scored again to make it a two-goal game before Lane-Flannigan scored a last-minute pride goal to close the gap.

“(Goalkeeper) Liam (Markus) was fantastic and was able to really allow us to implement our game plan, and he was making fantastic blocks to keep us in the game,” Gonzales said. “I thought that we were prepared. … I just think that we were offensively just extremely tentative … it was a struggle to put up shots, it was a struggle to put up goals – you know, in that sense, I definitely feel like we could have performed better.”

But Gonzales gave his team credit for its play all season long.

“I thought they had a great season,’’ he said. “I thought that they had times when they played some of the most competitive, some of the most well-thought out, intelligent, committed water polo that we are striving to play.’’