SANGER – The Sanger High boys water polo team will get another shot at the top-seeded Clovis East Timberwolves after dispatching a familiar opponent in the quarterfinal round of the Central Section Division II playoffs on Thursday.
The County Metro Athletic Conference co-champion and No. 4 seed Apaches (19-10) jumped to a quick 3-0 lead and later pulled away from a one-goal lead to overpower No. 5 seed Reedley High, 12-6, at Sanger Aquatics Complex. Many players from Sanger and the Tri-County Conference champion Pirates (25-5) have played together at the club level.
Sanger now takes on Clovis East (18-10), a 14-6 winner over No. 8 seed Morro Bay on Nov. 2, in a 6 p.m. semifinal matchup on Tuesday, Nov. 7. The two teams previously met this season, with Clovis East prevailing in a tight 11-9 matchup.
Sanger coach Micha Pavlovic credited the play of his seniors and veteran players for the win, but added that the team needs to step up to complete the team’s ultimate goal of a section championship. Still, he likes his team’s chances.
“Just a couple of weeks ago (Clovis East) beat the number one overall seed (Buchanan) which shows that there’s so much parity,” he said “But the way we’ve played them, I have a really good feeling that we can beat them.”
Sanger put away Reedley with a balanced scoring attack, getting three goals apiece from senior Jaxon Hoover, junior Ryan Nasalroad and freshman Austin McCaslin. Eliot Vilanova, Nicholas Bonomi and freshman Barrett Bron all added a goal, and sophomore Wyatt McNab had a steady performance in goal.
Sanger broke from the blocks early, getting goals from McCaslin and Bron followed leading scorer Hoover to go up three goals in the first five minutes. But Reedley came to life with goals less than a minute apart from Diego Lopez and Jonah Betancourt.
A penalty shot goal by Nasalroad restored the two-goal lead for Sanger, but a left wing score by the Pirates’ Travis Booth with seven seconds left made it 4-3 at the end of the first period. Goals from Nasalroad and Vilanova early in the second rebuilt the lead, and Hoover’s second goal made it 7-3 at 3:22 before halftime. Booth’s second goal made it 7-4 at the break.
Betancourt’s second goal early in the third cut the Pirates deficit to two goals, but Sanger responded with a goal by McCaslin and then blew it open with three goals in less than 90 seconds later in the period. Each team swapped a score in a defensive final period.
Senior Booth and freshman Betancourt each had two goals while Luke Bryan and Lopez finished with one goal for Reedley.
”I’m really proud of this group,” Pirates coach Kyle Bunch said, “To get 25 wins out of 30 games in a season is an amazing accomplishment. We ran into a very tough Sanger team tonight, they in my opinion, could very well go on and win this D-two title. But I’m proud of our effort tonight. We responded really well and fought tooth and nail for everything we got.”