Boys water polo: Conant takes down Hersey for MSL title
With a couple minutes having gone by in Thursday's Mid-Subruban League boys water polo championship game, host school and West champ Conant found itself in a quandary of sorts, according to their coach Tim Daniel.
"It sounds weird, but I felt like we were doing everything right except putting the ball in the back of the cage," Daniel said.
The statistics proved Daniel's thinking was correct. His squad had unleashed an aquatic barrage of nearly 20 shots on goal with only a 5-4 edge on visiting East champ Hersey over the game's first 16 minutes of play.
Then, thanks to one of his senior leaders finding the target for the third time, it fueled a series of more successful connections that ended with Conant hoisting its third MSL championship trophy in a 13-7 triumph.
It marked the return of the Cougars to the top of the conference for the first time since 2013.
That senior, Bryan Cho, a two-time all-MSL honoree, scored his third goal from a Spencer Urban assist with 4:55 left in the period.
It began a 4-0 run over that opened up what became a 9-5 advantage at the end of the third that saw Urban, Michael Bland and fellow all-conference teammate Noah Lawson (3 goals) convert for the Cougars (25-3).
Urban's second score in combination with Alex Hirjol's second tally left the Cougars with a 6ix-goal cushion (11-5) just 71 seconds into the final stanza. The Huskies (20-10) failed to chip into the lead any further as the teams traded scores the rest of the way.
Cho credited his team's stifling defense for setting the tone.
"Normally we like to stay and play our game for the most part," Cho said. "We don't really like to switch things up, we kind of like to wear out the other team so we can play our game and our offense at that point. That's when we take advantage."
Daniel echoed Cho's assessment.
"We're all about defense," Daniel said. "I take it personally when we don't play good defense. It was good."
Cody Blumenfeld and all-conference selection Jack Casey tallied twice each for Hersey while junior Scott Kaiser had 8 saves in goal.
"The first half was a whole team effort," Hersey coach Marc Popovici said. "The second half, everybody kept us in there. We needed just a little bit more."
A potential sectional semifinal rematch awaits both teams a week from Friday in the same pool if both teams win their quarterfinal round tests on Wednesday.
"We can't get ahead of ourselves," Daniel said, referring to a regular season-ending triangular meet at Lincoln-Way East that includes Lockport on Saturday.
"Hopefully, we'll see them again," Popovici said. "If I have to give this (the MSL title) for that, I'll do it."