The Dos Pueblos boys water polo team had a lot work to do Saturday morning if it wanted to make a return trip to the CIF-SS boys water polo semifinals.
The Chargers had their counter attack taken away and ran into some bad breaks in falling behind, 5-2, against Arcadia during the first half of their Division 2 quarterfinal game.
But DP exhibited tremendous resilience and used its outside shooting and tough defense to outscore the Apaches 7-3 in the second half and take a 9-8 victory at the Elings Aquatic Center.
The Chargers will host second-seeded and Channel League rival Ventura in a semifinal doubleheader on Wednesday at the EAC at 5 p.m. Ventura advanced with a 9-8 win over Irvine. Top-seeded San Marcos faces Portola in the other semifinal game at 3:30 p.m. Portola defeated Crean Lutheran, 16-11, in a late game on Saturday.
After scoring the first goal, the DP offense went quiet for the rest of the first half against Arcadia.
The visiting Apaches played tight defense and built a 5-2 lead. Things were going so well for them that their fifth goal came off a shot deflected by a DP defender.
DP coach Chris Parrish was hoping his Chargers would at least be tied at halftime against the Pacific League champions (24-4).
“I told (the players) before the game if we could get into halftime tied with them I think we’re going to blow the game open,” he said. “But when we were down, I reminded my guys: ‘We’ve been down five goals before and we came back to win. Don’t worry about it, it’s not that big of a deal. We got speed, we got good transition. We’re going to find some opportunities.’
“And down at the end, we just showed patience. The shots from outside that went in were late in the shot clock. With a 7-6 lead, I was pretty comfortable. I felt we were going to dominate possession, we’re going to get back on defense, we’re not going to give them easy looks. That’s kind of how it works.”
He said that before lifting his DP cap, wiping his brow and breathing a huge sigh of relief.
Down 6-4 after a power-play goal by leading goal scorer Jaden Joemtree, DP put together three straight scoring possessions.
On one of its few counter attacks, Aden Bishop drew a penalty and Jaden Moore converted the 5-meter shot to make it 6-5. Moore led the Chargers with four goals.
Ben Fuhrer turned a Moore field block into goal that knotted the score at 6-6 and Liam Sommer scored off the cross bar in the set position to put the Chargers into the lead, 7-6, with 1:28 to go in the third period.
After Arcadia missed a shot wide early in the fourth period, Bishop scored a huge goal at the 5:26 mark. He skipped the ball past goalie Warren Luck for an 8-6 advantage.
Joemtree, a powerhouse player for Arcadia who plays on the USA Water Polo Cadet National Team, drew an exclusion and scored on the power play to bring the Apaches to within one. He finished with three goals.
The Chargers (24-9) got a break after a turnover as Joemtree fired a potential game-tying shot off the post. They capitalized on the misfire as Fuhrer buried a shot to the far post to put the Chargers ahead 9-7 with 3:30 left in the game. His earlier game-tying goal also was to the far post.
“At halftime, we really just decided to lock in and focus up,” said Fuhrer, who scored two of his three goals in the second half. “We really didn’t switch up our game plan too much. We just started taking shots from the outside more and it started working a lot because they were doing a heavy drop (on defense). We just gave the ball to the open man and ripped it.”
Bishop felt the team came out stronger in the second half.
“I think really that second half was like a big turning point because we all decided to focus up,” said Bishop, who also had a key steal with just over a minute left in regulation.
“He hit that one near-side skip shot that really settled the team,” said Parrish of Bishop’s key fourth-period goal. “And then Ben from outside, getting up big and placing it cross cage. Those are just some great shots.”
Now its on to the semifinals for the second straight year.
“I really thought we could do it,” said Parrish of reaching the final four. “We’re senior heavy and they have experience after last year. I thought there was a really good chance it could happen. It was whether or not could integrate the freshman and have them come in and contribute.”