Western Athletic Conference water polo race tight

By David Witte / sports@losbanosenterprise.comOctober 12, 2012 

For a couple of days, Pacheco's boys water polo team was tied for the league lead after an 11-10 nail-biter of a win over cross-town rival Los Banos on Monday.

Pacheco's win created a three-way tie atop the Western Athletic Conference standings, with Pacheco, LB and Ceres (which defeated Pacheco and lost to LB) all at 3-1 in league play. But Ceres booted Pacheco from that tie with an 18-7 win on Wednesday, while LB defeated Central Catholic 15-12 to remain tied with Ceres.

In Monday's contest, after the Panthers took a 9-6 lead through three quarters, Los Banos closed the gap to one with two quick Cameron Jordan goals, taking advantage of Pacheco goalkeeper Spencer Heaton's weaker right side, where he broke a collarbone during baseball season.

"We've just got to hold them off, keep the defense tight and run the clock when we get the ball," Pacheco coach Josh Weinberger said. "We don't necessarily need to make the shot, so let's keep it slow and not get the turnovers. I told the guys to play tight defense, don't let them get the shot and don't make Spencer work as hard as he does sometimes."

The strategy worked, and Pacheco was able to hold Los Banos one goal off the lead -- Jacob Simon scored to make it 10-8 before LB's Jared Benitez closed the gap again. Daniel Judson's fourth goal put Pacheco up 11-9 before Benitez again narrowed the margin to one with 32 seconds remaining.

Pacheco's plan to hold the ball and run out the clock finally hit a snag when LB's A.J. Coronel pilfered the ball and called timeout with 14 seconds left.

Los Banos had one chance to tie the score, and goalkeeper Marcos Hedrick passed the ball in to point David Melendez, whose shot ricocheted off a forest of Pacheco defenders. Judson came up with the ball to preserve the Pacheco win.

Several key moments swung the game in Pacheco's favor -- maybe the most crucial was LB's Kyren DiMarzio earning his third kickout near the end of the third quarter, removing the Tigers' most dangerous shooter from the game. DiMarzio finished with three goals. Benitez led LB with four.

Another third-quarter moment came when Pacheco's Diego Iyigun found himself with the ball near halfcourt with about 2 seconds left on the shot clock. His reaction was to spin and launch a no-look backhand hail Mary of a shot that somehow found the top left corner of the net.

"(Weinberger) tells me when there's a few seconds left to either dunk it or go for it," Iyigun said. "I was like, 'Aw, coach is disappointed in me' and I started swimming away. I was so surprised. I didn't believe it."

Both goalkeepers stopped difficult shots that impacted the game -- Hedrick blocked 13 Pacheco shots and Heaton swatted 15 LB shots. LB's vicious defense kept Pacheco shooting from the perimeter, while much of Heaton's play came in dangerous one-on-one situations.

"Spencer just blows me away every game," Weinberger said. "I just can't get enough of him."

"I think he can play Division I, because he'll grow in the next few years," Los Banos coach Darryl Barger said. "He's that good. We knew that, we saw him during the summertime. He did a great job. Player of the game."

Mother vs. daughter

On Monday morning, Pacheco girls water polo coach Jill Brooks drove her daughter Taylor to school and wished her luck, then spent the afternoon preparing her team to face Taylor, who plays for Los Banos water polo.

"Before the start of the game, she came up to me and gave me a little speech -- she was like, I want you to kick butt no matter what you do," Taylor Brooks said. "She was like, 'I don't care about the other team, don't worry about my girls, just do what you do.' Of course she tells her girls hey, you know, go for it."

The younger Brooks came out on top of the teams' first meeting since the elder Brooks took over Pacheco, winning 15-3. Taylor scored three goals for Los Banos, second to teammate Mayra Espitia's four.

"It's kind of crazy because my mom is coaching, and I don't want to do anything, you know," Taylor said. "But I want to impress her at the same time."

The Tigers remained undefeated in league play with the win, but a 7-6 loss to Central Catholic on Wednesday dropped them into a 4-1 tie with Ceres. LB travels to Ceres on Wednesday in a showdown for the WAC title.

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at sports@losbanosenterprise.com

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at sports@losbanosenterprise.com

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