LONG BEACH — Sunny Hills fell victim to water polo's version of a desperation shot when Mike Burgess lobbed a 20-yard shot into the net as time expired in the first quarter.
The goal gave Riverside Poly its first lead and a ton of confidence that carried the Bears to a 9-5 victory over the Lancers in the Southern Section Division II final Wednesday at the Belmont Plaza.
The victory was sweet for top-seeded Riverside Poly (28-3) which Esperanza had defeated in the final last year.
"It feels darn good after having to wait a full year for another shot," Coach David Almquist said.
The Bears became the third consecutive team to knock off an Orange County school and bring home a Southern Section title. Last season Orange County schools swept the four divisions.
Sunny Hills (23-9) scored first when Justin Brechtel took a pass from Seann Schiele and scored 51 seconds into the game.
Matt Bainer got the Bears even when he took advantage of a Sunny Hills ejection and scored in the left corner with 1:36 left in the opening quarter.
Brechtel's second goal gave the Lancers a 2-1 lead, but Poly scored twice in the final 30 seconds of the first quarter to open a 3-2 lead.
"When that (Burgess' goal) went in, we said, 'Hey, we can win this,' " Almquist said.
Eliot Despins, Poly's 6-foot-4, 235-pound two-meter player, finally got loose 21 seconds into the second quarter and slammed the ball into the net to open a two-goal lead.
Dion Burmaz bounced in a shot for the Lancers, cutting the lead to 4-3. But Bainer forced a turnover and scored on a breakaway and Poly led, 5-3.
Carlo Franzia beat Bear goalie Quenton Gerbeau to his left to cut the lead to 5-4 at the end of three quarters.
Franzia got Sunny Hills even at 5-5, but the Bears scored four in row and to win the title.