Laguna Beach surprised some of the section's top water polo teams at the Villa Park tournament by reaching the championship game, but the Artists couldn't pull off a final upset and fell to Villa Park, 9-4, Saturday at Villa Park High.
In a tournament featuring six of the top-10 teams in the county, fifth-ranked Villa Park (14-3) and unranked Laguna Beach (11-4) advanced to the final. No. 2 Costa Mesa, No. 4 Capistrano Valley, No. 7 El Toro, No. 8 Esperanza and No. 9 Santa Margarita were eliminated.
Villa Park tournament MVP Joey Pacelli, who had seven goals in an 11-8 semifinal victory over Esperanza, scored four goals and Kyle Baumgarner added three for Villa Park (14-3) Saturday. The Spartans, ranked fifth in the Southern Section Division I, held the Artists (11-4) scoreless until 2 minutes 15 seconds remained in the third quarter.
Laguna Beach played its best earlier in the tournament, beating Costa Mesa, top-ranked in Division II, in the quarterfinals before defeating Bell Gardens in Saturday's semifinals.
Grant McGann scored twice for the Artists, ranked third in Division II, but Villa Park scored the first six goals and never were threatened.
"Any time you're ahead, 6-0, at halftime against a good team like this, you have to be pleased with the defensive effort," Villa Park Coach Jeff Ehrlich said. "For once, we were all on the same page defensively.
"That was our best defensive game all year."
The Spartans held all-tournament selection Spencer Dornin to one goal and the Artists were limited to mostly perimeter shots.
Villa Park also showed its versatility on defense. When Baumgarner picked up his second foul in the second quarter, he switched places with goalie Mike Nguyen. Villa Park didn't miss a beat as Baumgarner made several key saves for the defending tournament champion Spartans.
Esperanza, ranked fourth in Division II, finished third and El Toro, ranked sixth in Division I, finished fifth.