Senior Adam Coffin got free from his defender and found Ryan Drake come open late near the post in Saturday’s CIF Division 3 boys water polo quarterfinal match between Santa Barbara High and Los Osos.
Drake, with just 11 seconds remaining, caught the ball and put the ball through the back of the net to give the Dons a thrilling 11-10 overtime victory at the second-seeded Grizzlies home pool.
With the win, Santa Barbara (25-6) will advance to the semifinal for the second consecutive season.
Santa Barbara will face Northwood on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. Northwood defeated Westlake 6-5 to advance to the semifinals.
The Dons got out to a fast start in Saturday’s quarterfinal match, leading 5-1 at the end of the first frame. Santa Barbara led by as many as five goals in the first half, but four scores from Los Osos before the half made the score 7-5 in favor of the visitors.
“It couldn’t have started any better for us. We scored on the first three possessions and we knew they were going to make a run but it was a nice cushion to have. That start was so critical. They eventually tied it up and then it came down to grit and toughness,” Santa Barbara coach Mark Walsh said.
Both teams would trade a pair of goals in the third and the Grizzlies then found the back of the net twice in the fourth to tie the match at 8-8.
Dylan Fogg, who scored three goals on the day to go along with three steals and three assists, got a ball past the keeper with 3:30 remaining to go up 9-8.
Los Osos answered with just one second left in regulation as Connor Manion nailed a shot to send the game into OT. Manion had four goals to lead the Grizzlies.
In overtime, senior Chase Raisin tallied his fourth goal but that was answered by Los Osos.
With 12 seconds left, Walsh called a timeout. Out of the timeout, Coffin found Drake for the game-winner. Coffin had four assists on the day to go along with a goal, three steals, and two ejections. Drake finished with two goals.
“We didn’t have too much time left and we knew they didn’t have a timeout so we just wanted to get the best shot we could. We wanted to run a play and it got a little off-script because of the pool but Coffin made a great play. He had a defender right in his face and he didn’t force a bad shot. He found Ryan and he got rid of it so quickly that it was in. It was really special,” Walsh said.
Los Osos had one final look on the day to try to send it to another overtime, but the shot was saved by sophomore goalkeeper Wyatt Pieretti. Pieretti totaled 15 saves on Saturday.
“Amazing, the back to back saves he had in the first overtime were game-changers. They were wide open, right in front of the goal and he turned it back twice. He set the energy for the rest of our team and he was great. I loved his leadership and communication. He is usually a quiet guy but today he was loud and really talking and I think that showed how much he wanted it,” Walsh said.
Santa Barbara’s win also avenges an 8-5 loss it suffered against Los Osos in last years’ semifinals and even a 13-10 loss earlier this season.
Coach Walsh believes this win was the toughest one Santa Barbara has earned and will give the team a lot of confidence heading into next Wednesday’s semifinal.
“Los Osos is as good as a team as there is in our division and that might be the most difficult game we will have. This game wasn’t a neutral site, it was at their pool. Obviously, the stakes are bigger (on Wednesday) but that might have been the most difficult thing for us to do so I am proud of these guys,” Walsh said.
“They’re not shaken by the moment as much as they used to be. They have grown a lot this year. We weren’t always mature when things didn’t go our way but that has changed for the better.”