Robert Phillips and Kyle McKenney are four-year varsity players, third-year starters and co-captains of the Buchanan High School boys water polo team.
So it was only appropriate that the senior duo led the Bears to an eighth Central Section championship Saturday at the Buchanan pool.
Phillips scored three goals while playing neutralizing defense on high-scoring PJ McDonough, McKenney made 12 saves and top-seeded Buchanan rolled to an 8-3 victory over No. 2 Clovis in the Division I final. It’s the Bears’ first title since 2013, when Phillips and McKenney were freshman reserves.
“It’s a huge honor,” Phillips said. “I love this team. We deserved it this year.”
Never miss a local story.
Phillips pumped in the game’s first goal – a long-range lob that escaped the reach of Clovis goalie Kyle Morton – at the 4:55 mark of the first quarter to give Buchanan (25-5) a lead it would not relinquish.
Then Phillips went to work on defense against McDonough, who entered the final with 123 goals. McDonough scored eight in an 11-6 win over Clovis North in the quarterfinals Wednesday.
But McDonough was held to two shots – both saved by McKenney – in the first half as the Bears took a 4-1 lead.
“I matched up on him the whole game,” Phillips said. “That was our main game plan, but not just me matching up on him is what shut down their offense. It’s every single player doing their job for the team.”
McDonough’s only goal came with 1:47 left in the third quarter, slicing Clovis’ deficit to 6-3. But Cade Berrett scored 20 seconds later and Phillips netted his third goal with 5:45 left in the fourth.
We did a good job getting stops. Robert in particular, we gave him the job to match up with their top player and he did an excellent job shutting him down and also had a big offensive game with three goals himself.
Buchanan co-coach Nic Maes on the performance of Robert Phillips in the Bears’ 8-3 victory over Clovis for the Central Section Division I boys water polo title
“I thought our defense did what we wanted to do,” Bears co-coach Nic Maes said. “Robert in particular, we gave him the job to match up with their top player and he did an excellent job shutting him down and also had a big offensive game with three goals himself.
“That speaks volumes to the kind of player he is.”
Buchanan, which also received goals from Zack Keysaw, Kaleb Archer and Dawson Bricks, shut out Clovis over the game’s final 8:47.
McKenney recorded the final three of his 12 saves from point-blank range in rapid-fire succession on Clovis’ last possession to finish a season that saw the Bears go undefeated against section opposition. Buchanan outscored teams 352-153.
Clovis (19-13) also received goals from Ryan Trutna and Matt Wilfong while being outshot 30-17.
Division I boys championship
NO. 1 BUCHANAN 8, NO. 2 CLOVIS 3
C, Ryan Trutna, Matt Wilfong, PJ McDonough. Saves: Kyle Morton 13.
B, Robert Phillllips 3, Cade Berrett, Zack Keysaw, Kaleb Archer, Dawson Bricks, Gabe Putnam. Saves: Kyle McKenney 12.
Records: Clovis 19-13; Buchanan 25-5.