Tied at the end of regulation play, the Palisades High School boys water polo team, fought through two overtime periods to take the Division III Championship 10-9 over Rancho Bernado (San Diego) on November 19.
After winning its 10th City Championship, Palisades High School boys water polo team was seeded first in the Division III Championship and coasted through its earlier tournament games, beating Muir 22-15 and Birmingham 15-13.
Seeded second, Rancho Bernardo had an equally easy time to reach the championship, beating San Pedro 16-4 and San Dimas 15-8.
The teams were equally matched and the final at Maggie Gilbert Aquatic Center was tense and exciting. At half, the score was tied 4-4. At the end of the third, it was 5-5.
At 5:37 in the 4th the Bronco’s took a penalty shot because of an infraction by Dolphin goalie, John Possman. PaliHi players waved and defended the goal, and the Bronco shot went wide.
Less than a minute later, the Broncos scored, and Pali was behind 6-5.
With a minute left in the match, Pali drew another penalty and were a player down. The Bronco player missed a shot with 56 seconds left.
At 54 seconds left in the game, Pali scored to tie the game 6-6.
Possom made an incredible save with 10 seconds left in the game, which sent the championship into overtime.
In the first three-minute overtime period, Pali scored three, the Bronco’s two and it was 9-8 going into the second overtime period.
The Bronco’s scored a penalty shot, and the score was tied 9-9.
Pali scored 30 seconds later and managed to hold the Broncos off to win the title, 10-9.
Going into the championship, “We knew were evenly matched,” said coach Kirk Lazaruk. Part of the strategy was to get the Bronco’s best player in foul trouble, which the Dolphins did.
“Our biggest adjustment was keeping our composure,” Lazaruk said. “The kids showed great grit.”
He said that two of his players had been out sick and “We had to go with younger players.”
The team, which was young, had a lot of talent. “We had a lot of plays we could adapt,” he said.
During the season, players adopted Kobe Bryant’s attitude. Following Game 2 in the 2009 NBA finals, Bryant was asked if he was happy with the team’s back-to-back wins. His response: “What’s there to be happy about? Job’s not finished.”
“Job done,” Lazaruk said, “Kid’s did it tonight and I’m proud of them.”
Overall, for the season the Dolphins were 27-4 and 8-0 in the Western/Marine league and ranked 81 in California. The Broncos were 25-9 overall and 5-0 in league and ranked 74 in California.
Lazaruk, said that he and coach Adam Blakis stressed to players during the season that if “you’re up, show humility. If you’re down, show confidence.”
He said that coaches are “trying to teach more than water polo. What players learn [from challenges] will help in life.”