All of The562’s water polo coverage for the 2021-22 school year is sponsored by Aqualand. Visit AqualandOfTheFree.com to learn more.
When Arcadia cut Millikan’s lead to two in the third quarter of the CIF Southern Section Division 3 first round game on Tuesday at Millikan, Max Miller knew exactly what he needed to do.
“I just felt like I had to take charge because we were kind of playing discombobulated and I felt like in order to win the game and push forward we needed somebody, in this case me, to lead the team and that’s what I had to do,” Miller said.
The senior captain proceeded to score six consecutive goals to lead the Rams to an 18-11 win. Millikan will hit the road for the second round on Thursday.
“He’s just a guy who has a lot of experience and he’s able to step up when It’s needed,” Millikan coach Danely Smith said. “He’s played for a long time. He’s seasoned and he can handle tough situations.”
Miller finished with a game-high eight goals and three assists. Logan White chipped in five goals for the Rams, and goalkeeper Evan Zes finished with seven saves.
Arcadia was able to keep the high-scoring affair close in the first half thanks to a team-high seven goals from freshman Jaden Joemtree. The game was tied 3-3 late in the first quarter when White and Miller scored to make it 5-3. The Millikan defense stepped up in the second quarter and the Rams led 8-5 at halftime.
“Sometimes it’s all about attitude,” Miller said. “In this game we were a little (lackadaisical) before, we weren’t incredibly hyped up. I think it’s that mental state that makes the first impact in the game. It’s all about what you do coming into the game.”
“It was a matter of stepping up and getting the jitters out a little bit,” Smith added. “We didn’t make too many adjustments. We just started to take advantage of opportunities.”
Joemtree scored three straight goals for Arcadia to make it 10-8 in the third when Miller took the game over. One of his six straight goals was a deft backhand as the shot clock expired.
“I saw the clock running down and I remember all those times in 12s would just backhand out of nowhere,” Miller said. “I was like, ‘I’m going to be that guy’ and it worked somehow. It was pure luck.”
Millikan led by as many as eight in the fourth quarter as White scored three consecutive goals down the stretch.
“We know that we need to play a much better game next time,” Smith said. “Arcadia showed up ready to play. I told the boys that in the playoffs everybody shows up ready to roll. We were just able to turn it on in the second half and take care of business.”
“It was looking pretty ugly to begin with but I’m glad that we pulled through,” Miller said. “I feel like we’re going to go far in this division. I’m really confident in my team.”