STRATHMORE - A packed pool greeted the Porterville High and El Diamante teams as they began their warm up. Each practicing their moves in preparation for the the CIF girls water polo championship. 

The stands filled quickly as it was standing room only with others bringing their folding chairs.

PHS Coach Evan Thomas dutifully instructed his girls in a final round of drills. Bringing it back from last year’ short season  this has been a good year for the Panthers as they've gone 17-11.

PHS finished off its good year by winning the Valley title, beating El Diamanté 9-5 on Saturday at Strathmore High.

Rising for the national anthem both teams were announced as cheers ring out for every player. Giving their school chant the Miners and Panthers jumped in. 

The officials face one another before tweeting the start of the match and a back and forth between Panthers and Miners begins. 

Each team swimming hard and passing quickly neither gaining the upper hand until Addy Merritt puts in the first goal at 5:39 in the first quarter. Both sides cheer and hail encouragement to their teams, spearing them on to push to the limit. 

With teamwork the Panthers score their second and third goals, each coming from Merritt bringing it to 3-0 before a goal by Chantelle Millan closes out the first quarter 4-0.

The second quarter starts just as quickly with a rush by the Panthers; Maycee Hyder with a pass to Merritt and a narrow miss on goal. Responding quickly the Miners Ava Wofford scores the Miners first, albeit hectic, goal at 5:11 in the second quarter. 

Calling a timeout the Miners take a moment to solidify their plans as the Panthers do the same. Dozens of passes are made in the next two minutes as the second quarter rolls on. The Miners second goal was scored by Marley Thompson after a break away pass let her right in Panther territory for a goal. Merritt scores another goal to give PHS a 5-2 lead. at halftime.

As the third quarter commenced and the seven minute timer tick down the Miners were able to move though a the Panther defense for a goal. With a quick shout of directions from their coaches both teams adjust their players’ positions. 

Aubrey Cardoza passed to Merritt and then Merritt to Aubrey Wingfield who with a powerful shot scored, bringing the score to 6-3. Goals 7 and 8 come just as quickly for the Panthers from Claire Lee and Merritt before the end of third quarter.

 The between quarter strategies were mete out by Coach Evan Thomas, instructing the girls to stick to their defensive power and to pick their shots to remain ahead. 

The fourth quarter leaves only 7 minutes for a Miner miracle or a pleasant end for the Panther season. Lee passed to Merritt who gave it off to Cardoza as a close block stops the goal. 

Cheers from the crowd mask the audibles called by coaches; however, the Panthers are focused and a goal by Millan brings it up to 9-3. 

Sensing their window of opportunity closing the Miners pushed back hard. Doing a quick swap the Miners sub in four fresh players and press the offense.

The Miners fourth goal comes after a multiple passes. 

Time ticks down as only 4:18 remains. The Miners scored their fifth goal in the last three minutes. Time stretches as the Panthers conserve their time and wait the clock out happily ahead of their opponents. Neither school will go out without a fight and the last moments of the game were played with just as fiery an intensity as the first. 

Agonizing over missed goals and feeling the weight of the Panthers defense, the Miners would be left with a narrow miss to end the game 9-5. 

Cheers erupted as the crowd clapped for both teams. The Panthers huddle together with their coaches and staff, all celebrating their win.

After gathering for photos and the celebratory dive into the pool, Thomas said “A lot of hard work was put in by all these girls. Hard work in practice, hard work in games; they've grown to become champions by their own strength and I couldn't be prouder.” 

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