PASADENA — On an afternoon in which the Crescenta Valley High boys' water polo team struggled and was challenged, the Falcons kept themselves in the Pacific League hunt by holding off surprising host Pasadena, 11-10, on Tuesday.
"If you're just going off history, then it might be shocking, but you can't do that. Pasadena is a good team, we know that, and they played hard," Falcons Coach Jan Sakonju said. "We had some passes intercepted. We had a little panic there at the end. What matters is that we got the win and we'll move forward."
The contest seemed all but assured for the CIF Southern Section Division V third-ranked Falcons (12-8, 4-1), who took an 11-8 lead when senior driver Ryan Moguel (game-high four goals) threaded an improbable four-meter goal that split Bulldogs goalie Kyle Radcliff (10 saves) and defender Matthew Klein (team-high three goals) with 3:08 remaining.
The goal was the final of a 3-0 run for Crescenta Valley, playing in its eighth game over a seven-day span, which was backed by a defense that had blanked 10th-ranked Pasadena (13-6, 3-2) through that point in the fourth quarter.
Yet, the Bulldogs battled back over the game's final 80 seconds, first scoring when senior Matthew Esser lofted a seven-yard floater over the outstretched arm of Falcons senior goalie George Vine IV with 1:12 remaining in the game.
Then after a Falcons turnover, the Bulldogs earned a six-on-five chance after a kick out of Omar Trad and pulled within 11-10 on a goal from senior Edin Memisevic with 22 seconds remaining, which led to a timeout.
After the break, the trio of Trad, Moguel and Vine VI attempted to play keep away when Pasadena pressured Trad and Moguel and forced possession into Vine VI's hands.
Rather than hold onto the ball, Vine IV fired a dangerous pass cross-pool in the direction of senior Nate Fernandez, who caught the ball just as he was leveled by Radcliffe.
"I know that was a mistake. It was a JV play. I should have just held onto the ball and made Pasadena come to me," said Vine IV, who otherwise was stout with 13 saves. "I didn't see anyone open except Nate open and he saved me. I owe him."
Radcliffe was called for a foul on the play with eight seconds left and Crescenta Valley ran out the clock.
"We didn't play well today. We just made way too many mistakes," said freshman Brandon Fernandez, who tallied three goals. "We didn't pass well or defend well. A big part of this is because of the pool, but we could have done better."
Pasadena's notoriously small pool wreaked havoc early on a Falcons team that prepared for the game by practicing at its pool with tighter lane lines.
Crescenta Valley trailed, 4-2, after the first quarter thanks to four straight goals from the Bulldogs, including a last-second rebound score from Chance Woods.
The Falcons eventually pulled even at 5 on a goal from Daniel Park (assisted by Nate Fernandez) with 1:18 left in the second quarter before Memisevic punched in a goal with 51 seconds left in the second quarter.
Crescenta Valley, coming off arguably its biggest win of the season after defeating Pasadena Poly in tournament play over the weekend, took its first lead of the second half, 8-7, on a score from Brandon Fernandez with 3:31 left in the third and held a 9-8 advantage after another last-second goal, this from Nate Fernandez before the close of the third.