Dons, Dos Pueblos to meet for TOC title

Sophomore Kelsey O’Brien scored with 1.7 seconds left to give Santa Barbara a dramatic 5-4 girls water polo win over No. 2-ranked Los Alamitos and vault the Dons into the championship against undefeated Dos Pueblos at the 12th annual Tournament of Champions on Saturday.

The all-local final is set for 4:30 p.m. at the Santa Barbara High pool. It’s the first time Santa Barbara is in the final since winning the tournament in 2004 and the first time an Orange County team is not in the final.

Top-seeded Dos Pueblos (15-0), the two-time defending champion, advanced to the title match with an impressive 13-6 rout over fourth-seeded Newport Harbor. It was the Chargers’ 51st consecutive win.

Stanford-bound Kiley Neushul put on a show in the semifinals, pouring in seven goals from all over the pool, including a three-quarters pool-length shot at the end of the third quarter that gave DP a 10-5 lead.

O’Brien’s game-winner came off a great long pass from Charlotte Hendrix. She broke free from a defender, caught the ball and fired a shot that beat Los Alamitos’ standout goalie Savanna Smith to the far post from about 8 meters. The Cal-bound Smith had stopped 10 Santa Barbara shots prior to the game-winner.

Santa Barbara goalie Maddie Trabucco played a strong game at the other end of pool, making nine saves.

It was a tense, half-court battle, similar to a CIF playoff game, with both teams playing superb defense.

“We really did our best,” O’Brien said. “We did amazing defense, everyone as a team. It was difficult, but we pulled through.”

The Dons (12-4) took a a 4-3 lead with 1:51 left when Trabucco fed Betsy Hendrix on a long outlet pass for a breakaway. Hendrix beat Smith with a shot that banked off the right post and into the net.

Santa Barbara dug in on defense and had everyone covered, but the Griffins got the ball inside to junior sensation Rachel Fattal and she buried a shot with O’Brien draped al over her.

Fattal led the Griffins (12-2) with 3 goals. O’Brien had two for the Dons, who were routed 13-3 by Los Alamitos back in mid December.

The final is the second meeting in 10 days between the crosstown rivals. Dos Pueblos squeak out a 6-5 win in a Channel League match.