For three quarters, the Clovis High boys water polo team got pressured into difficult shots that were either well off the mark or blocked, when it got a shot off at all.
But there's a reason the Cougars were awarded the top seed in the Central Section Division I playoffs, and they showed it down the stretch while rallying for a 6-4 overtime victory over fifth-seeded Buchanan in a semifinal Wednesday.
Clovis advances to Saturday's final where it will host No. 2 Clovis West, an 18-14 winner over No. 3 El Diamante. Game time is to be determined.
"The key was to do the same thing over and over again and eventually, you will get kids on the other team making mistakes," Clovis coach Terry Giffen said. "And that's what we did."
After being limited to two goals on 22 shots through the first three quarters, Clovis (26-5) scored on two of its first four possessions of the fourth -- both goals by Jake Jizmejian -- to go ahead 4-3.
"We've always been a second-half team," Jizmejian said. "Once we got some momentum, it started to flow."
Defending D-I champion Buchanan (15-18-1) forced overtime on Phillip Clayman's goal with 4:06 left in regulation, but Clovis responded in the first of two 3-minute extra periods with a pair of goals from Jake Salomonson.
"They left me open both times, so I walked it up and put it in," Salomonson said.
Buchanan led 3-1 midway though the second period but couldn't hold on.
"What I was pleased about is we're the No. 5 team coming in and we took the No. 1 seed to overtime," Bears coach Dave Pickford said. "We played defense as long as we could."
A slow start wasn't about to keep second-seeded Clovis from a second straight trip to the D-I final.
After being held to one goal in the first quarter, the Cougars pulled away from No. 3 El Diamante for a 14-8 victory.
"They did not want to lose," Clovis coach Noah Minton said. "They are so stubborn. If something goes wrong, they just turn it up a notch."
Hannah Harvey scored two of her five goals in the second quarter as the Cougars (23-8) took control, setting up Saturday's rematch with top-seeded and two-time defending champion Clovis West.
"I think now we have a really good chance to beat them," Harvey said.
"Early in the year it was like, 'Oh well, we can't beat them.' But we've improved greatly."