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Tony Montez sparked a hot start for Millikan boys’ water polo on Wednesday afternoon in a 17-7 win over visiting Lakewood. The rivalry matchup was also Senior Day for the Rams as Montez and ten other seniors certainly played the game like it was one of their last.
“We’re still getting back into the feeling of playing water polo,” Montez said after losing a full junior season to COVID-19 shutdowns. “We had a bumpy year last year and barely got to play so it felt good to get in this game with all the guys.”
Millikan jumped out to a 7-2 lead after the first quarter during which Montez scored two goals, dished out two assists and collected three steals. Both assists went to fellow senior Max Miller, who finished with four goals.
“This is our first year playing together because I was on JV and he was on Varsity, but we seemed to click very quickly,” Montez said. “Our speed matches and it’s just good chemistry between us.”
Montez, Miller and DJ Keller finished the game with four goals each for the Rams.
“He gets fired up, he’s an emotional guy,” Millikan coach Danely Smith said of Montez. “He comes out swinging and he’s a fast swimmer so that helps.”
Millikan scored six goals in the second quarter to take a 13-4 lead into halftime, and it would’ve been more lopsided if Lakewood goalkeeper John Borders didn’t come up with 13 saves. The 6’5” senior has aspirations to play at the next level.
“He is absolutely unbelievable,” Lakewood first-year coach Charles Wright said. “When I showed up the very first day I knew I wanted to make him a team captain. He and a couple other kids are setting the trend for us moving forward.”
Lakewood has had a tough season with multiple games canceled due to a positive COVID test, so this was the Lancers’ first Moore League game of the season. Nathan Napohaku scored four goals for Lakewood.
“He’s starting to do more things individuals like working on turns and pushing the counter attack and getting his shot going,” Wright said of Napohaku. “The more his confidence builds it’s going to be better for the team.”
Millikan outscored Lakewood 4-0 in the third quarter and got every player in the pool in the fourth quarter.
“They’re excited to play together,” Smith said of his seniors. “They all get along really well and they’re stoked to play together and they were pretty fired up to play. Going forward against Poly that’s great.”
The Rams still have league games against Poly and Wilson to finish the regular season. Millikan is 2-0 in league.
“We had a couple bumps in the road but as a team we overcame those obstacles and we’re just pushing forward,” Montez said.
Smith likes where his team is at headed into those pivotal games.
“They’re starting to gel together going into the postseason,” Smith said. “We’re starting to put things together on offense like anticipating each others movements. We’re just in a good spot starting to do what we practiced in the games.”
Millikan has a good non-league challenge when it hosts Walnut at 4 p.m. on Friday. The Rams are ranked No. 10 in Division 3 and Walnut is just outside the Top 10.
“It’s communication, awareness and staying on top of everybody to make sure we know what’s going on,” said Montez of what the Rams need late in the season. “It’s about coming fired up and being excited.”