It took two games of trial and error, but Buchanan High finally figured out how to slow down the Central Section's season-long top-ranked boys water polo team.
The second-seeded Bears forced high-scoring Trevor Kolb to take his shots primarily from long distance and held off a late rally by top-seeded Clovis West for a 9-8 victory in the Division I final Saturday at the Clovis West Aquatics Complex.
Clovis West had defeated Buchanan twice previously during Tri-River Athletic Conference play.
"I'm proud of my team, we worked all year for this," said Buchanan's Scotty Silvas, who had three goals. "Even though we didn't win the first two games, we always knew we could beat them."
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The Bears (24-10) earned their fifth boys water polo title by making sure Kolb didn't hurt them the way he had in the first two meetings. Kolb's two goals in the second half helped the Golden Eagles pull away for a 6-4 win Oct. 7, while his fourth goal late in the fourth quarter keyed a 13-11 Clovis West win Oct. 28.
"We knew who we had to shut down," said Buchanan's Kyle Kittlitz, who shared team-high scoring honors with Silvas. "We did our jobs in the first half. They got some goals in the second half, but we stuck with it."
Kolb scored three goals in the final, but only one came from the 2-meter zone, and that shot was rigorously contested. His other goals came from outside of 10 meters and on a 5-meter penalty shot.
Buchanan held Clovis West (21-11) to 1-of-16 shooting in the first half while building a 6-1 lead.
"This time we forced them to take shots we wanted them to take," Bears coach Dave Pickford said. "We didn't let them score much out of 2 meters. It was all outside shots. And [Buchanan goalie] Will Rhodes is pretty tough at blocking outside shots."
Brad Duncan's goal sliced Clovis West's deficit to 9-8, but the Golden Eagles had an offensive foul, a shot blocked and a last-second, three-quarter-pool heave off the mark on their final three possessions.
"Maybe we were a little tentative early," Clovis West coach Steve Mosher said. "It's been a couple of years since we've been here. We certainly gave up more than what we wanted to early on."
Division I girls
Top-seeded Clovis West completed its steamroll with an 11-6 victory over second-seeded Clovis for the Eagles' second straight title and ninth overall.
Clovis West did not lose to a team from the section in going 28-4 this season.
But this one didn't come easy for the Eagles, who didn't take the lead for good until Lauren Martin's second-half opening goal put them ahead 5-4.
"We tried to come out and get that first goal and just kept going from there," Martin said. "We needed that so we could get our hopes up."
Morgan Campbell and Mallory Rettig added goals in the first 2 minutes of the third quarter before Tristin Baxter took over.
The Bee's reigning Player of the Year scored three goals -- two on 5-meter penalty shots -- and had a steal during a minute stretch late in the third quarter to put Clovis West ahead at 10-4.
"Tristin had an amazing game," Clovis coach Noah Minton said. "She got some mismatches with us and that killed us."
Clovis (22-11) scored first and actually held a 4-2 lead with 2:02 left in the second period after Julie Austin's goal, but was outscored 9-2 the rest of the way.
"We realized we had to step it up," Baxter said. "It was time to go. I think we took advantage of our opportunities."