May 20, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Portola reaches CIF finals for first time with 13-12 victory over Irvine

Ryder Tonkovich of Portola takes a shot in Wednesday’s CIF playoff semifinal game. (Photo courtesy Jim Tomlin).

Two crosstown rivals from the Pacific Coast League began play Wednesday night in the CIF Division 3 boys water polo semifinals at the William Woollett Aquatics Complex aiming to reach the finals for the first time.

Top-seeded Portola, the PCL champion and Irvine battled until the final whistle but a goal by Portola sophomore Luke Porter with three seconds remaining lifted the Bulldogs to a 13-12 win and into the finals for the first time in school history,

A big and lively crowd watched the entertaining semifinal in Irvine.

Portola (24-3) will face No. 2-seeded Damien, which defeated Capistrano Valley 12-7 in the other semifinal, in the championship Saturday at 9:30 a.m. on the left pool in the Irvine complex. Portola lost 7-6 in the Division 4 semifinals last year to Long Beach Poly and was determined to advance to the big show this season.

The Bulldogs did just that.

To see the slide show, click on the first photo:

“Phenomenal, it was such a great shot,” Portola Coach Kate Avery said about the goal by Porter, his second goal of the game. “There are so many emotions, feelings right now. We’ve never beaten Irvine before, so there’s that and Noam Garibi fouled out in the first half and that’s huge.
“Irvine is a phenomenal team and there is a reason they were ranked one for league and ranked one for CIF for so long because they have a lot of talent. It feels rewarding to be able to beat that team with the team we have and on top of that, we advanced past the semifinals, which is beyond what we did last year, the first time we went to CIF, so we just keep making history.”

Ryder Tonkovich scored five goals to lead Portola. Max Minasyan added three goals. Irvine (24-7) was led by Camden Peterson, who had four goals and Sam Bowman and Sean Dory, who had three goals each.

Irvine led 7-6 at halftime after leading by three goals in the second quarter.

It was tied 10-10 going into the final quarter. Trailing by one goal, Irvine’s Drew Bryan scored with 14 seconds left but after a timeout Portola countered with the game-winner by Porter.

Portola had tried a similar play to Porter but came up short. The Bulldogs tried again and converted.

“At the end, we called another timeout and we ran the same play but on the opposite side again to me, my teammates just passed it in to me and they trusted me to make the shot and I did.

“I was just really thankful because I knew at that point in the game, I was either going to win the game or lose the game, and I wanted to win. It’s really cool because last year I came in as a freshman and we went all the way to the semifinals and we lost to Long Beach Poly.

“Being in the same position in semifinals against a team we had previously lost to in our league, it was really difficult. The entire team came in nervous, but we came in, we played and we wanted it and we got it.”

Irvine Coach Tijmen Egtberts said “it’s hard losing like that.”

The coach said he was satisified with his squad’s overall effort.

“They played really good,” he said. “Defensively, we were all over it. If you’re up three goals you should win it, the game should be over. This whole year, we’ve had a couple lapses in judgement when we’ve been up three goals and we saw it again. Most of their goals came off of us turning the ball over, not us missing a shot. At least five of their goals came from that.

“We had it, but like I said earlier this week, it was going to be a chess match and Portola did everything they needed to do to win it.”

The Vaqueros had plenty to be proud of, Egtberts said

“It was the best season in the school’s history by far,” the Vaqs coach said. “Irvine never got out of the first round in CIF, we made it to the semis.”

The coach said the team broke the record for most wins in a season for Irvine by four wins.

Semifinal scores

Open division: JSerra 12, Mater Dei 8; Newport Harbor 11, Harvard-Westlake 8

Division 1: Foothill 6, Laguna Beach 5; Orange Lutheran 11, CdM 10

Division 2: San Clemente 13, Palm Desert 9; San Marcos 8, Westlake 6

Division 3: Damien 12, Capo Valley 6; Portola 13, Irvine 12

Division 5: Don Lugo 8, Westminster 5; San Dimas 10, Buena Park 4

Divison 6: Hemet 20, Savanna 5; Muir 21, Paramount 3


Full schedule for Saturday’s CIF finals

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone;