BWP: Slow-starting Dons survive Chargers

Jack Rottman - Santa Barbara High

Santa Barbara’s Jack Rottman gets wide open in front of the cage for a Dons goal in the second half. (John Dvorak/Presidio Sports Photos)

Coming off an important victory on Tuesday, Santa Barbara High’s No. 3-ranked boys water polo team talked about not having a let-down two days later against Dos Pueblos.

The message didn’t get through until the second half as the Dons rallied to defeat the Chargers 13-9 on Thursday.

“Honestly we just look like we were exhausted. I think maybe emotionally the San Marcos game took a lot out of us and we just didn’t have a lot of energy,” said Dons head coach Mark Walsh. “I tried to get them up for the game but it didn’t work and I think once they were losing at half and we could legitimately lose this game they came out with a little more fire.”

The Dons, who are the Channel League’s lone undefeated team, found themselves trailing at halftime 5-4. After the break, however, it was all Santa Barbara as the Dons outscored the Chargers 6-1 in the third quarter. SB’s wave of momentum took the lead all the way to 13-6 in the fourth quarter before the Chargers scored three garbage-time goals with all of Santa Barbara’s starters on the bench.

“A couple of the things we wanted to try to do worked really well in the first half and then Mark (Walsh) made adjustments and they came out really strong in the third quarter,” said Chargers head coach Chris Parrish.

The game was still tied at 6-6 until Chris Gaffney gave the Dons the lead for good with 3:14 remaining in the third quarter. The Dons came on strong during the final minutes of the third period, scoring three quick goals in the final two minutes and five seconds. One came on a lightning quick counterattack that started with goalie Justyn Barrios making a long pass to Sawyer Rhodes who found Jack Rottman open in the middle of the pool. Once Rottman drew the defender from Rhodes, the ball came back to Rhodes for an open look.

Rhodes and Adam Gross both had five goals and three steals in the game for the Dons. Gross said he thought the team did a good job rallying in the second half.

“(Walsh) basically just told us how it was: we were playing very poorly, we didn’t have any intensity whatsoever. (It) really just woke us up,” Gross said.

Dylan Elliott’s five goals were a team-high for Dos Pueblos. Taylor Gustason scored three times and drew a handful of ejections. Walsh said he had his team start double-teaming Gustason in the second half to slow down the Chargers.

“He got us into a lot of foul trouble so we just had to go to a straight double-team on him,” Walsh said.

Dylan Elliott watches a shot find the upper-right corner of the Dons cage for a first-half goal.

Dylan Elliott watches a shot find the upper-right corner of the Dons cage for a first-half goal.

Dos Pueblos was at less than full strength going into the match. The Chargers were without starter Jake Griffin, who suffered an eye injury at practice on Monday, and then starting goalkeeper Ben Cable broke a pinkie finger in practice on Wednesday. Cable played on Thursday but was removed after the third quarter.

“He went as long as he could, he just couldn’t hold on after the blocks he had taken,” Parrish said. “It was just a matter of how much pain he could handle and he couldn’t go in the fourth quarter.”

The Dons extend their win streak to 13 and improve their overall record to 16-4. They play again on Tuesday at Ventura.

The Chargers fall to 1-4 in the league standings and 5-12 overall. Dos Pueblos’ next game is Tuesday at home versus Buena.