League Champ Tigers Fall in First Round

First published in the Nov. 12 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

By Nathan Cambridge
The Review

The South Pasadena High boys’ water polo team captured the Rio Hondo League championship and its reward was a first-round home match in the playoffs against visiting San Marcos High of Santa Barbara.
Unfortunately, the Tigers fell behind and could never quite catch up against the Royals in a 14-9 defeat in the CIF-Southern Section Division II playoffs last Tuesday evening.

“They stuck to the game plan well and they worked hard and they communicated,” South Pasadena coach Lindsey Garcia said of her team. “It just didn’t go our way today.”
It was a tough draw for South Pasadena, whose season ended with a 13-6 overall record. San Marcos (18-12 record), which never trailed against the Tigers, was the Channel League’s runner-up and ranked No. 6 in the division’s final poll.
“It’s been quite an adjustment coming back [from the COVID-related hiatus] and working and having the drive to be here every day, but the team is awesome,” Garcia said.
The Tigers trailed by four at halftime and entering the fourth quarter. Nearly two minutes in, the Royals were awarded a 5-meter penalty shot. Emmett Haggerty fired away, but Tiger goalkeeper Kaden Ho made a key save.
With 4:50 to go, South Pasadena earned a 5-meter opportunity. Senior Owen Imasaki converted with a shot that skipped off the water into the back of the cage. Just 37 seconds later, Imasaki scored again on a 5-meter shot, once again skipping the penalty shot in. South Pasadena had trimmed the deficit to 11-9.
However, that would be as close as the Tigers would get. San Marcos made stops down the stretch while stoking its advantage by scoring the final three goals of the match.
All of the Tigers’ goals were scored by seniors, led by Imasaki’s game-high five goals. Lucas Abrahamian scored two while Blix and Egan Hadsell-Florin netted a goal apiece.
“[Imasaki] was quite a handful for us,” San Marcos coach Peera Sukavivatanachai said.
The visitors won the opening sprint and scored 21 seconds after the opening whistle. The Royals struck again with five minutes left in the first period.
Blix Hadsell-Florin got the Tigers on the board in the final minute of the quarter with a shot from the right side that deflected off a defender’s arm. The Tigers trailed 2-1 after the opening frame, in which South Pasadena hit the frame of the goal three times on shots by Will Michels, Imasaki and Blix Hadsell-Florin, respectively.
San Marcos scored three goals in a 58-second span early in the second quarter to seize control.
Imasaki stopped the run with 4:17 to go on a goal from close range. Haggerty answered with a goal for the Royals and Imasaki answered right back with another goal. Royal Nic Prentice tallied the final point of the first half with 44 seconds to go to set the margin at 7-3 at the break.
Each team scored four goals in the third. Abrahamian scored 15 seconds into the period from close range. The next four goals were scored with a one-man advantage due to exclusion fouls. The first was from the Royals. Abrahamian scored next from long distance before San Marcos scored twice more. With 1:51 left, Egan Hadsell-Florin made a steal and passed to Imasaki, who passed the ball back, and Hadsell-Florin scored. Both teams scored in the final minute on goals by Imasaki and then Prentice.
“We had a hard time putting the ball away on six-on-five and that is ultimately what killed us in this game,” Garcia said.