By Steve Breazeale
It took six minutes of overtime to decide the South Coast League boys water polo champion on Nov. 4 at Dana Hills High School and for the third consecutive year, it was the Dolphins who were celebrating in the pool after a narrow 17-15 victory over San Clemente.
For most of the night it looked like the Dolphins would breeze their way past the visiting Tritons as Dana Hills held a 12-6 edge heading into the fourth quarter.
But San Clemente (15-12, 4-2 league) came roaring back, outscoring the Dolphins 7-1 in the final quarter to force overtime.
The Dolphins (16-10, 7-0), who had led all night, saw their lead melt away in the final minutes and gave up a controversial game-tying goal with seconds left in regulation.
Trailing 13-12 with 11 seconds left, San Clemente senior Chase Hamming was looking to score and was fouled. Instead of stopping at the whistle, the game clock continued to run and Hamming forced a pass to Colton Hamming, who put the ball in the net as the clock expired. The officials waved off the goal, prompting Tritons head coach Marc Parker to plead his case that there should have been more time.
The officials ruled there was a correctable error and gave San Clemente the ball with three seconds left on the clock. Chase Hamming lobbed in a shot, which was redirected into the net by Colton Hamming to tie the game 13-13.
In overtime Dolphins’ senior Casey Burns took over, scoring two goals and notching an assist. Dana Hills junior Bennett Williams scored on a backhand shot to put Dana Hills up 16-15 and Burns scored two minutes later to seal the win.
Dana Hills was led by senior Marko Asic and Burns, who had four goals each. Senior goalie Riley Zachary had 20 saves.
The Tritons attempted to play a more balanced style of offense rather than defer to Chase Hamming, their leading scorer. The tactic paid off, as Sean Edwards (three goals), Colton Hamming (two) and Josh Mourer (two) all made contributions on offense.
The team’s ability to bounce back in the fourth quarter showed Parker his team will be battle-tested come playoff time.
“It’s a lot of heart. That’s what you want. They didn’t give up. Most teams would have rolled over at 12-6 with a quarter to play,” Parker said. “I think they started feeling like they had a chance and it showed. We just need to carry that over into the playoffs and we can’t have any kind of a letdown against El Toro (on Nov. 6).”
San Clemente will finish league play Nov. 6 against El Toro. A win will ensure the Tritons a solo second-place finish in league and a berth in the CIF-SS Division 2 playoffs.
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