Coming into Saturday, only one thing was on the mind of the Buchanan Bears boys water polo team: defend their championship.
The three-time defending Valley champions did exactly that in their 12-10 victory over Clovis West to capture a fourth straight Central Section title.
“It feels great,” team captain and Bears leading scorer Caleb Teraoka said. “This whole season was defend the legacy, and the legacy was three Valley championships in a row, so we just wanted to add to that and make history at Buchanan High School.”
And “defend” indeed was the most apt word to describe the Bears effort against the Golden Eagles, considering the ultra-potent attack of Clovis West that had scored 21 goals in the previous two games leading up to the final.
The Bears swarmed the Golden Eagles’ offensive players, no matter where they were in the pool.
Buchanan made it extremely difficult for the Golden Eagles to generate scoring chances at the front of the net, tipping and deflecting passes that resulted in turnovers.
The Bears allowed only three goals in the first half, helping offset an offensive attack that was unable to generate many scoring chances itself.
But that all changed once the third period started.
Buchanan scored the first three goals of the period, including one on a penalty shot from Teraoka, a scenario in which he has excelled all season.
Down 10-3 mid third period, the Golden Eagles refused to go down without at least giving the Bears all they could handle.
Samuel Otta, the Golden Eagles’ best offensive threat the entire regular season and playoffs,scored with 3:56 left, followed by two goals from Ronan Bailey and Colin Bennett, bringing the score line back to a 10-6 margin.
But Teraoka, knowing the importance of the moment, wouldn’t let Buchanan lose all the momentum it had worked all game long to acquire. The ultra-talented senior launched a missile of a shot from outside the five-meter line into the upper-left corner of the net to put his team back up by a semi-comfortable five goals with still one period to play.
Teraoka said once the ball went into the net, it was over.
“Once I got that goal, we knew we had the victory,” he said. “We got the energy back toward our side and it just led us to the win.”
However, Otta and teammate Parker Fife were able to summon up one last,run to keep the Golden Eagles hopes of a title alive.
The two attackers put in a flurry of three goals in less than a minute of game action to make it an 11-9 game.
But that five-goal margin proved too much to overcome, and cementing the Golden Eagles’ fate was Erl, putting one home with 3:06 left in the game.
With the Valley championship in the bag, the next item on the agenda for the Bears is the state playoffs.
Round one and regional semifinals begin on Nov. 19 and 21, with the championship brackets to be announced on Sunday.