There wasn’t much separation between Long Beach Poly and Millikan during their Moore League boys’ water polo clash on Wednesday. The score was tied six times, including at the end of regulation, until a trio of goals in overtime lifted the Rams over the visiting Jackrabbits, 11-8.
The win sets up a battle for first place in league next Wednesday when Millikan (15-9, 3-0) visits defending league champions Wilson at Belmont Outdoor Pool.
Millikan was led by hat tricks from Max Miller and Danny Cheiner in the win. Chase McPherson, Lance Gabriel and Nick Cruz each scored twice for Poly. Millikan goalkeeper Kai Goeku made 12 saves, while Poly’s Ethan Evans stopped 11 shots.
Poly’s Justin Greenwood scored a rebound equalizer with 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter to force overtime, but Miller and Cheiner dominated the first three-minute overtime period to give Millikan the advantage.
Miller had a handful of steals in the second half, and assisted on three goals. He said after the game that he purposefully celebrated after the second-half goals to get his teammates excited.
“It’s all a mentality,” Miller said. “The most important thing is firing up your teammates. We’re only as good as the sum of our parts. If one person isn’t feeling it then none of us are feeling it. I wanted to make everyone feel the way I felt. I wanted everyone to have that adrenaline rush to just keep going.”
The Rams defense held the Jackrabbits scoreless in the six minutes of overtime.
“I think we were a little jittery in the first half,” Millikan coach Danely Smith said. “We slowed down in the second half, caught our breath and started to play our game. The game comes down to momentum shifts and those momentum shifts kind of went our way at the end of the game. We got a little opportunity, put the ball away and came out on top.”
Poly (8-10, 1-2) came out on the front foot and led 3-2 after the first quarter. Cheiner scored his first goal from distance to tie it up, and the two league rivals traded goals until they were tied 4-4 at halftime.
Miller took over the third quarter as Millikan scored three unanswered goals to grab a 7-4 lead halfway through the third quarter.
“I’m always looking for Max to do special things,” Smith said. “Other teams don’t always expect things from him. He kind of sneaks in there, but he’s always hustling and working his butt off the whole game.”
Poly answered quickly with three unanswered goals of its own to tie it up again 7-7 headed to the fourth. Gabriel scored both of this goals in the run, including a 5-meter in the last minute of the quarter.
Miller poked in a loose rebound with about five minutes left in regulation to give Millikan the lead, but Poly forced overtime through Greenwood. Cheiner, Miller and Maceo Glenn all scored for the Rams in overtime to clinch the victory.
“Millikan was the team in the pool that deserved to win,” Poly coach Ish Pluton said. “They fought for it hard. But individually, every last one of my guys played their best game of water polo and it’s so fun to coach them because every single game this season they’ve grown. They have that drive and that fight…. that loss sucks, but I’m still super proud of these guys.”
Poly hosts Cabrillo on Wednesday.