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A Pretty Good Effort, Bell Gardens Is Better

Water Polo Division III: Harvard-Westlake hangs tough but loses title match, 14-11.


LONG BEACH — There would be no upset of undefeated Bell Gardens High on Tuesday night in the Southern Section Division III girls' water polo final at Belmont Plaza Pool.

But there was one heck of a game.

Harvard-Westlake fell short and became victim No. 60 when the Lancers held on for a 14-11 victory.

The second-seeded Wolverines (27-5) can take pride in their effort against Bell Gardens, knowing they kept it close and put a bit of a scare into a team many consider the best in the nation.

"I loved the way our girls fought," Coach Rich Corso of Harvard-Westlake said. "Everybody talked about 59 and 0 [but] our girls didn't buy into that."

Top-seeded Bell Gardens (30-0), defending division champion, has not lost since the program's inception two years ago, winning 60 consecutive games.

"We were playing for a championship, but what you're really trying to do is upset the national champion," Corso said.

Corso was not disappointed.

The most any opponent had scored against Bell Gardens was five goals, and that was by Division I power Long Beach Wilson.

"Sure, it's a silver medal, but our team has arrived," Corso said.

Twice Harvard-Westlake held leads--1-0 on a goal by Rachel Burkons midway through the first quarter, and 4-3 on Jeanine Jackson's shot from mid-pool five seconds into the second quarter.

The first half featured four ties and was nothing short of a battle of wills.

Bell Gardens tied it, 4-4, on a Patty Cardenas' goal with 6:44 left in the second quarter. But it was the first in a 4-0 run that gave the Lancers a 7-4 lead.

The Wolverines closed out the quarter with two-meter shots by Courtney Quinn and Burkons to get to within 7-6 at halftime.

"At the end of the first half I looked up at the scoreboard and I could not believe my eyes," said Burkons, who had four goals. "We put a lot of work into this season and it paid off."

The Lancers extended their lead to 9-6 with two goals in the first 1:01 of the third quarter and then to 12-7 with three consecutive goals in a 4:18 span.

"I think people got ahead of themselves and our defense lagged in the third period," said Jackson, who finished with three goals despite taking only five shots.

Bell Gardens clamped down on Jackson, a member of the U.S. national youth team.

"[There was] predominantly two hand grabs," Jackson said. "I wasn't as mobile as I would have liked to have been."

The Wolverines pulled to within three goals three times in the fourth quarter, including 14-11 on Jackson's seven-meter shot with 1:16 remaining.

Andrea Hernandez, the only senior on the team, scored five goals for Bell Gardens, Sheetal Narsai added four and Cardenas had three.

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