Play No. 1 El Diamante in Wednesday's semifinal
Six seconds — that's all fourth-seed Porterville High School boys water polo had to prevent overtime and giving any more hope to fifth-seed Golden West mounting a comeback in Saturday's CIF Central Section Division II quarterfinal game at Porterville.
The Trailblazers (9-12) had one chance to send the game into overtime and they took their shot against PHS sophomore goalie Nick True, who blocked the ball to his left then shielded it from Golden West players as the final buzzer sounded for the Panthers' 14-13 win.
“We just had to dig deep,” PHS head coach Mickey Goularte said after the game. “The message to the kids was, 'You know what? We worked hard for this all year long. You've got the strength, you've got the endurance and you've got the speed. If you use it, you win, and that's all there is to it.' And they did. They used it and they won.”
Trevor Riley was all over the stat sheet for the Panthers (12-8) with a game-high five goals, four steals and two assists while Garrett Lamb contributed three goals, three steals and one assist. Levi Davis totaled three goals and three steals and Ethan Merritt had two goals, two steals and one assist.
The four were crucial in Porterville's victory, especially after the team's five-goal lead evaporated in the second quarter, but the Panther's win was nothing short of a complete team effort.
“We've really got four players mainly who have come through like crazy for us,” Goularte said. “Garrett, Trevor, Ethan and Levi, have been come through time after time after time. And then we have a good supporting cast with guys like Tyler (Avila), who can force plays to happen quite often and stellar defense. Carson (Wallace) puts shots in for us sometimes, gets those assists. He comes through. Ryan Davis comes through on defense quite often, gets those key steals sometimes that we need. We got four guys that we can rely on pretty frequently for the scoring and the others, they just do their job.”
In “support”, Wallace had one goal and three assists, Avila one assist and one steal and Ryan Davis two steals. Isaac Gutierrez chipped in an assist and a steal.
Porterville was leading 7-2 three minutes into the second quarter when Golden West's comeback started. The Trailblazers scored five straight goals to cut the Panthers' lead to 7-6 at the half.
With no ejections on them through the first half, Golden West played unrestricted and scored another five goals to Porterville's two to take an 11-9 lead going into the fourth.
Goals from Lamb, Levi Davis and Riley, respectively, put the Panthers back on top 12-11 within the first two minutes of the quarter. But with 1:56 to play, the Trailblazers tied the game for their third and final time.
Porterville took over from there with Riley scoring again, this time on a man-up situation, followed by Lamb's game-winning goal 25 seconds later off an assist from Wallace.
Golden West managed one more goal at the 30-second mark but True's block marked one of the biggest plays of the game. In the cage, True finished with seven blocks and two steals.
“Sophomore goalie trying to play varsity is extremely difficult,” Goularte said. “And we know that we go against teams that are going to try to pick on him, one way or another. They're either going to take outside shots, whatever they can get. Or they're going to attack the goalie, try to steal the ball from him. And we told Nick about that ahead of time.
“We said, 'We know these guys are going to come after you. We know they're going to try and steal the ball.' And he said OK. And that's been Nick. He wants to play. He wants to get in and do his job and he's done it. I think he's surpassed my expectations this year. He's done things I didn't think we'd be able to get him to do.”
Porterville faces a familiar team for their Wednesday semifinal matchup in top-seed El Diamante (22-6), who beat ninth-seed Morro Bay (6-13) 13-9. The Panthers lost 19-16 to the Miners in their first game of the season on Aug. 22.