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Hakop-less Hoover halted

Water polo: Bad start made worse by ejection of their top player leads to end of Tornadoes' most successful season.

November 17, 2011|By Gabriel Rizk, gabriel.rizk@latimes.com
  • Pasadena Poly's Brock Hudnut, left, defends Hoover's Hakop Baghumian during the CIF Southern Section Division IV game at Mt. Sac in Walnut.
Pasadena Poly's Brock Hudnut, left, defends Hoover's… (Cheryl A. Guerrero/Staff…)

WALNUT — Things were already going decidedly the way of Pasadena Poly early in Wednesday night's CIF Southern Section Division V semifinal match at Mount San Antonio College, making the call that threatened to cripple Hoover more tipping point than turning point.

The unthinkable came like a body blow to the already reeling Tornadoes, in the form of a shockingly sudden misconduct exclusion of senior utility Hakop Kaplanyan, the two-time reigning All-Area Player of the Year and Hoover's unquestioned playoff catalyst, with not even one full quarter in the books.

And, while the anticlimactic end of Kaplanyan's high school career may figure most prominently in the epitaph of the most successful water polo season in Hoover history, the overarching theme of Poly's 13-6 victory was the infallible play of a Panthers team so driven to lock up its second straight trip to the Division V title game, it really didn't matter who the Tornadoes had in the pool.

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"That incident didn't cost us the game," Hoover Coach Kevin Witt said of Kaplanyan's ejection for throwing a head butt with two seconds remaining in the first quarter. "It was everything that happened before and after."

While Kaplanyan's absence certainly lessened the odds of a Hoover comeback, such as the one he led over second-seeded Palm Desert in overtime on Saturday that put Hoover in the semifinals for the first time in program lore, the details of the match would seem to bear out Witt's claim.

Third-seeded Pasadena Poly (26-2), led by standout Henry Pray's eight goals, had its quick-strike counter-attack working to perfection and ran an airtight defensive scheme, from its solid perimeter coverage right down to the spectacular goalkeeping of Colin Woolway, who finished with 14 saves. The Panthers will play Bonita for the championship at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine.

Hoover (17-7) had a golden chance to score first with a two-on-one breakaway off a Kaplanyan steal, but Woolway saved the shot taken mere feet from the cage. The Panthers then went on a 5-0 run fueled by two goals from Pray and three from Spencer Rogers, who finished with four.

"We knew what their game plan was, we faced it several times when Glendale did the same game plan against us," Witt said. "I think we just struggled a little bit in the bigger [pool], we got tired. It seemed like we were really excited, as opposed to more calm and relaxed and I think that cost us a couple early mistakes."

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