Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High senior Ian McColl tries to shoot the ball between several Sacred Heart Prep defenders in Saturday’s playoff final.
Facing top seed and defending champ Sacred Heart Prep in Saturday’s Central Coast Section Division II boys water polo final, Los Altos High had little margin for error – and the Eagles made plenty of them.
Los Altos struggled to score, allowed far too many easy goals and unraveled in the second quarter of a game the Gators won 19-7 in Santa Clara. Trailing 3-1 to start the second period, the Eagles found themselves down 11-3 and two players by halftime.
Los Altos goalie Cameron Putnam was ejected early in the quarter after getting tangled up with Nelson Perla-Ward, who had just scored to put Sacred Heart up 7-2.
“The goal was scored on him and the guy was close, and when he was getting out of there, (Perla-Ward) caught him with a foot,” said Los Altos coach Johnny Bega, who received a yellow card for arguing with the refs about Putnam’s ejection. “We probably overreacted a little too much with him, but it happens.”
The major foul resulted in a penalty shot for the Gators, which Zach Churukian converted to make the score 8-2 with 4:55 remaining in the half.
The Eagles (18-12) responded with a point-blank shot by Mark Schreiber, then things went from bad to worse for the No. 3 seed. Seconds later, Sam Lisbonne – Los Altos’ second-leading scorer – drew his third exclusion foul and was removed from the game.
“Losing Sam was a big disappointment because we run a lot of our offense through that side of the pool,” said Ian McColl, whose three goals led the Eagles. “When one of the players on that side is taken away, we don’t have as much movement and productivity on that side. It hurts our offense, but it also hurts our defense because they counter us out of that.”
Sacred Heart (25-4) capped the half with three unanswered goals to take a commanding lead at intermission. Paul Bergevin opened the second half by scoring from long range, but it proved to be Los Altos’ lone goal of the quarter. The Gators scored five consecutive points to take a 16-4 lead into the fourth.
Bega cited Sacred Heart’s experience, size and goalie Will Runkel as the difference in the game.
“They came back with everybody from last year, and they’re huge,” Bega said of the Gators, who beat the Eagles 7-4 in last season’s final. “Their goalie is very good – he’s one of the top goalies I’ve seen in a long time. It’s hard to get the ball around him.”
While disappointed with the result, McColl was proud of his team for getting back to the title game.
“Making it to the final two years in a row is incredible,” he said. “Our program has developed so far, and it’s not going downhill.”