PASADENA — With less than a minute left in a tightly contested match between two rivals, Artak Arzumanyan saw an open lane to the cage.
The Glendale High boys’ water polo inched closer to the net, realizing he had a chance to deliver perhaps the most important goal of the season for the Nitros. Arzumanyan wasn’t about to waste the golden opportunity while seeking to keep Glendale perfect in the Pacific League.
Arzumanyan scored the winning goal with 39.2 seconds remaining to lift visiting Glendale to a 12-11 league win against Crescenta Valley on Thursday at Pasadena City College.
PHOTOS: Glendale vs. CV boys water polo
“If you want to be one of the best players, you have to be able to step up at any given time,” said Arzumanyan, who finished with five goals to help Glendale improve to 13-6, 4-0 in league. “I feel like I have the confidence to score big goals.
“I saw it as the perfect opportunity to score. It was such a nerve-wracking game that kept going back and forth. You just can’t let your emotions get to you in such a close game.”
Glendale, ranked No. 1 in the latest CIF Southern Section Division V poll, has won two straight league championships. It went undefeated in league the past two seasons and reached the CIF title match last season for the first time in the program’s history.
Crescenta Valley (9-7, 3-1) proved to be a worthy opponent against Glendale. The Falcons, ranked No. 5 in Division V, held three separate one-goal leads before seeing Glendale rally for the win.
“I didn’t know what to expect from us coming into the game,” Crescenta Valley Coach Jan Sakonju said. “There were a lot of talented players out there for both teams.
“It was a nice little see-saw game and an improvement for us.”
After Arzumanyan gave the Nitros a 12-11 lead, Crescenta Valley looked to press for the equalizer. However, the Falcons committed a 30-second shot-clock violation, allowing the Nitros to swim out the remaining 11 seconds.
“We were playing for a matchup and we didn’t get it,” said Sakonju, who received four goals from Griffin Harting and 16 saves from goalkeeper George Vine IV. “I thought about calling a timeout. We had a mismatch in our favor on the other side and we didn’t see it.”
After Arman Momdzhyan (four goals) gave the Nitros a 1-0 lead with 6:23 left in the first quarter, Crescenta Valley got one goal apiece from Ryan Moguel, Daniel Park and Harting to build a 3-1 advantage.
Moguel gave the Falcons a 5-3 lead with a man-advantage goal with 3:49 left in the second quarter. However, Glendale scored three goals in an 84-second span to take a 6-5 halftime lead on two goals by Arzumanyan and one from Momdzhyan.
The Falcons bounced back with three goals in a row to begin the third quarter. Omar Trad knotted it at 7 with 6:04 to go in the third quarter. Harting then scored two straight, the latter giving the Falcons an 8-6 lead with 2:57 to play in the frame.
Glendale then tallied three unanswered goals to make it 9-8. The Nitros pulled to within 8-7 on a goal by Arzumanyan with 1:58 to play in the third quarter before Momdzhyan scored a pair of goals in the final minute to give the Nitros a 9-8 lead.
Glendale extended its lead to 10-8 on a goal by Harut Bandikyan with 5:37 left in the fourth quarter. Crescenta Valley responded by getting a goal from Brandon Fernandez to close to within 10-9 with 4:21 to go. Arzumanyan made it 11-9 with 4:07 left before the Falcons countered with a goal by Moguel a minute later.
Trad knotted it at 11 with 1:55 remaining before Arzumanyan sealed the victory.
Glendale Coach Forest Holbrook said the Nitros and Falcons provided plenty of suspense.
“This is CV and Glendale,” Holbrook said. “I’m glad we were able to pull it off.
“Anybody could have won. CV’s a very good team and Jan puts out a real strong team. Artak is a clutch player. He’s a big-time goal scorer. You have to keep your eye on him all the time.”
Sakonju said the Falcons learned a lot competing against Glendale.
“They are No. 1 in the division for a reason,” Sakonju said. “I have so much respect for guys like Arman and Manuk Piloyan and Forest does a great job coaching them.”