The562’s coverage of Aquatic sports in Long Beach is sponsored by the Aquatic Capital of America Foundation.
Once again the boys’ water polo teams of Long Beach gathered on Wednesday at Cabrillo High for the Moore League showcase.
Wilson beat Lakewood in the first game, Long Beach Poly fended off Millikan for a victory in the second game, and because Jordan isn’t fielding a team this season, Wilson brought their junior varsity team to play Cabrillo so that every team got a game.
“It’s the best,” Wilson coach Zach Polmanteer said. “I really like the format and seeing all of the programs in one pool. We always love being a guest out here at Cabrillo, this pool is incredible. It’s a really fun time to see the whole city together.”
It didn’t take long for Wilson to assert its dominance in an 18-0 victory over Lakewood. Junior Enzo Brigagliano scored twice in the first two minutes on his way to a team-high five goals in the first half. Hank Sander and Keegan Abira also scored multiple goals while the Bruins had 13 different goal scorers. Polmanteer got all of his players into the pool in the second half.
“There’s really only a few kids here who are returning varsity players so even the juniors are stepping up big time and it’s fun to watch them grow,” Polmanteer said.
Long Beach Poly also started brightly in the second game, but then had to hunker down and hold off a charge to beat Millikan 11-7. The Rams pulled to within two in the second half, but the Jackrabbits were better in transition while closing the game out.
“I think we kind of got flustered and started to play less as a team and forcing things,” Poly’s Emerson LaPorta said. “We had to gather our thoughts. If they’re pressing me or Marcus out we have to find those other opportunities to convert and play a little bit different than we’re used to.”
Markus Cuz had a game-high four goals for Poly while LaPorta and Kyle Oatey chipped in hat tricks of their own. Jackrabbits goalkeeper Sean Kerry finished with six saves.
Nathan Huber and Ben Garcia each scored twice for Millikan while Lucian Rankin, Zain Dahdul and Scout Knight-Pheng also netted goals. Rams goalkeeper Evan Zes finished with 11 saves.
“We played good but I thought we were a little tentative to start,” Millikan coach Randy Wright said. “But these and the growing pains of development. Every game our goal is to just improve, become more relevant and become more competitive. Last year we got shelled, and this year 3-4 goals is probably the expectation.”
Poly took a quick 2-0 lead through Oatey and LaPorta but Rankin and Dahdul cut the lead in half twice to make it 4-2 at the end of the first quarter. Zes came up with some clutch saves in the second quarter to keep Millikan close, but unselfish passes from Caden Kawamura and Billy Cruz set up Oatey and LaPorta to give Poly a 6-3 halftime lead.
When Garcia scored the first goal of the second half, and then Knight-Pheng scored to cut the lead to 7-5, that’s when Poly tightened the screws defensively. A quick turnover led to a 5-meter penalty for Luke Cassiano to finish and pad the lead again.
“When they were all on the same page and we were all pressing Millikan really couldn’t get much offensive possessions,” Poly coach Ish Pluton said. “They did a really good job of capitalizing on a couple lapses here and there. They’ve got some good kids who can rip those shots. They definitely made us work for it. We knew Millikan wasn’t just going to roll over, they were going to fight for it. They proved it.”
LaPorta was also key to holding possession down the stretch.
“He is a really clever and smart player who can do a really good job of rallying his team to do what you need to do to break it down,” Pluton said of LaPorta. “He’s got the water polo knowledge, and the team knows it and they vibe off of that.”
The Moore League reconvenes next Wednesday when Wilson travels to Millikan, and Cabrillo hosts Poly.