Boys water polo: Last-second score lifts Naperville Central over Stevenson
Must be the state finals, where games are close and in some cases decided in the final quarter.
Take the Naperville Central vs. Stevenson boys water polo state quarterfinal game Friday night.
The two teams were familiar with each other and the aforementioned formula didn't disappoint. Naperville Central beat the Patriots 8-6 a couple of weeks ago.
With two ticks left in regulation in Friday's game in Lincolnshire, Naperville Central senior defender Luke Klein-Collins took a pass from about 4 meters out and promptly blasted it past Stevenson keeper Alex Mitchell and all of the sudden the Redhawks were a 6-5 winner and headed to the state semifinals Saturday, where they will play Fenwick at 12:45 p.m.
"We did a really good job of drawing man-ups and we didn't panic," said Klein-Collins, who scored a hat trick for the Redhawks.
"I just got the ball and at that point just was looking to score. Felt amazing when it went in."
Naperville Central looked to take control early, jumping to a 2-0 advantage.
After a steal by keeper Jonah Klein-Collins, senior driver Sean Stablein got one past Mitchell for a 1-0 lead. Then, junior Mark Laboe scored on a man-up to make it 2-0.
"We had a pretty good first half," said Redhawks coach Bill Salentine, whose team is ranked No. 1 in the state and is now 32-1 overall. "Our passing wasn't that great and we maybe tightened up a little (in the second half) but we got lucky at the end."
Stevenson (23-11) came right back to tie it 2-2. First Drew Wangard scored, followed by Dima Kobets, who lobbed one over Jonah Klein-Collins for the equalizer.
Naperville Central wound up taking a 3-2 lead at the end of the first when junior driver Cameron Dougherty skipped one in with 33 seconds left in the half.
Both teams had chances in what turned out to be a scoreless third quarter with goaltending on the part of both keepers at a premium.
"We played really well and held the defending champs to five goals," said Pats coach Sean Wimer. "We just needed to make our shots. But we took them down to the wire."
Stevenson ignited the home crowd when senior attacker Beno Maya faked three times before hammering one in.
Naperville Central made it a two score game again when Luke Klein-Collins fed Dougherty for a 5-3 lead with 3:38 left in regulation.
Kobets then scored to cut it to 5-4. Kobets then fed junior attacker Mark Holzer for a 5-5 deadlock before the final fireworks by Luke Klein-Collins.
Mitchell finished with 12 saves for Stevenson, while Jonah Klein-Collins also stopped 12 Patriot shots.
"His (Mitchell's) play spoke for itself," said Wimer. "He was outstanding blocking everything in sight. But I'm so proud of our guys. We have a tough bunch of kids and they really grew up this season."