PASADENA — With seemingly every element against them, including a hostile road crowd and an equally-determined if not desperate opponent, the Burroughs High boys’ water polo team couldn’t have picked a more urgent and appropriate time for a signature effort.
Despite surrendering a three-goal lead to open the fourth quarter, the visiting Indians never fell behind and instead surged forward as the Pacific League’s fourth and final guaranteed playoff participant after defeating Pasadena, 11-10, on Friday afternoon on senior day.
The victory clinched the Indians (12-5 overall, 3-3 in league) fourth place and the league’s final playoff spot, while vanquished Pasadena (13-8, 2-4) now has to hope for a CIF Southern Section Division V at-large berth as both teams head to the Pacific League tournament next week.
“I’m proud of how my team played. This was a dogfight and there were screaming fans in the background,” Burroughs Coach Danny Garcia said. “This was a playoff atmosphere and the composure we showed was great.”
Burroughs nursed its one-goal lead into the final minute when Bulldogs senior Cooper Horn fired high and wide left on a six-yard shot with exactly a minute left.
The Indians then drained the clock until they were called for a 30-second shot clock violation with 30 seconds remaining.
Pasadena’s final possession didn’t produce a shot as an interior pass with 23 seconds left was stolen by Indians goalie Dillon Wiegand with 23 seconds left before Garcia called timeout.
Out of the break, Wiegand (eight saves and four steals) played keep away with teammate Danny Mairena, as the duo wound down the clock until zero.
“The difference today was our composure. We didn’t panic and we played as team,” said Mairena, who finished with four goals and two assists.
The turnover capped a day in which the Bulldogs hampered their own cause by committing at least five turnovers in each quarter, while finishing with a total of 23.
By comparison, Burroughs only committed five or more turnovers in one quarter and finished with 11 overall.
“We made some mistakes that cost us, but we played well and lost a close one,” Pasadena Coach Neil Esser said. “I was disappointed at some of the calls and lack of calls out there.”
One such interesting call was when Esser was assessed a yellow card at the 4:09 mark in the second for slamming a water bottle in the ground. Right after the card, a member of Pasadena’s crowd was ejected for screaming at the official.
“It was wild out there,” Indians junior Casey Ueno said. “That just made us want to win more.”
Pasadena trailed, 5-2, after one quarter, thanks in part to three of a team-high five goals from Ueno.
Yet, the Bulldogs won the second quarter, 3-2, and the third quarter, 4-3, in pulling within 10-9 at the close of the third.
In fact, the match should have been tied at 9 after three if not for a Bulldogs turnover deep on their side with three seconds remaining that resulted in a last-second, 10-yard strike from Mairena, who was assisted by Daniel Silva.
Pasadena rebounded with a game-tying goal from Horn (team-leading three goals) that passed the outstretched arms of two defenders and knotted the game at 10 with 3:56 left in the fourth.
Exactly 50 seconds later, Burroughs took the lead for good on a game-winning goal from Ueno, assisted by Oscar Hernandez.
Pasadena’s surge was made possible, in part, due to the strong goalkeeping of senior Nolan Berge, who recovered from a shaky first half in which he allowed two perimeter goals and totaled only three saves.
In the second half, Berge finished with nine saves, four of which were from point-blank range.