First published in the Nov. 13 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
After the Burbank High School varsity boys’ water polo team’s narrow 9-8 victory over visiting Ventura Buena in the CIF-SS Division 5 semifinals on Wednesday, head coach David Arakelyan said that it was the Bulldogs “toughest game by far.”
Two clutch goals by Robert Kharazyan in the final minutes of the fourth quarter secured the victory to propel the Pacific League champion Bulldogs to the CIF final.
Bulldogs goalie Narek Galamdaryan’s team-high nine saves against Buena were just enough to propel BHS into the final.
“Narek played great. It’s little things that I’ve been talking about all season with him and we’ve been working on getting those things right. He’s done a great job of doing that from the beginning until the end,” Arakelyan said. “[And for Kharazyan] to be a center and to sit out for most of the first half and to come in to score two big goals like that — the tying and a go-ahead goals — that was amazing.”
Burbank and Buena battled for control of a game that saw seven lead changes and six ties.
Entering the second half, Buena scored twice before Burbank tied it, 6-6, behind goals from Johnny Agazaryan and Kharazyan, setting up a thrilling fourth-quarter.
Johnny Agazaryan recorded a team-high four goals, four steals and three assists, while Kharazyan finished with three goals.
“[Johnny Agazaryan] has been doing it all season,” Arakelyan said. “He’s our man, he’s our guy, he’s our No. 7 cap for a good reason — been he’s our team captain and you couldn’t have asked for anything more from your team leader. That was awesome.”
Andranik Bilbulyan scored a key goal, his lone match score, in the fourth quarter to tie it 7-7. He also added three steals.
The first half was similar to the second in that it was two low-scoring, back-and-forth quarters.
Johnny Agazaryan scored Burbank’s first three goals while Zack Gezalyan added one to tie the match, 4-4, with 1:21 remaining in the second quarter.
In addition to the goal, Gezalyan recorded two steals and two assists.
Danny Agazaryan had one steal and one assist while Hayk Atanasyan and Avetik Barsegyan each tallied one steal.
“This is a huge confidence boost going into CIF finals,” Arakelyan said. “We’re ready for anything; we’re coming for that ring.”
The Bulldogs, the tournament’s No. 2 seed with a 22-3 overall record, lost to Carpinteria (No. 1 seed, 23-4 overall) at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine on Saturday, Nov. 13. Burbank will continue to seek its first CIF championship in any sport since 1993, and the first in school history for its water polo team, according to BHS athletic director Patrick McMenamin.