It goes without saying that the best boys water polo teams are located in Southern California. That was evident at the 10th annual North-South Water Polo Challenge that saw Mater Dei edge defending champion Harvard-Westlake, 11-10, in the championship match on Saturday at Sacred Heart Prep.
For Mater Dei (20-1), which ended Harvard-Westlake's 50-match win streak this month, it was its second title in this event in three years -- last winning in 2013. Luke Wyatt and Sean Duncan each scored twice for Mater Dei, with Wyatt getting the game-winner. Stanford recruit and U.S. Men's Senior National Team member Ben Hallock had two goals for Harvard-Westlake (17-2).
For further evidence of SoCal's dominance, Huntington Beach finished third and Loyola (Los Angeles) took fifth.
The top Northern California squad in the elite 16-team tournament was Sacred Heart Prep, which finished fourth following a 15-6 loss to Huntington Beach. The Gators (14-5) also lost in the semifinals to Mater Dei, 16-5.
"It was a very tough day for us," said SHP coach Brian Kreutzkamp, whose team also went 2-2 last season in this event while finishing fifth. "I was happy they made it to the semifinals. We gained valuable experience playing against such high-level opponents.
We are looking forward to Wednesday's league championship game versus Bellarmine."
The Gators will host the Bells that day at 6:30 p.m., with the winner wrapping up the regular-season title in the West Catholic Athletic League and the No. 1 seed in the league tournament.
SHP should be well-prepared for facing Bellarmine, which wasn't among the eight NorCal teams entered. The Gators faced arguably the No. 1 team in the country in Mater Dei, which now has beaten erstwhile No. 1 twice this month and looks to be the top seed for the CiF Southern Section Division I playoffs.
Sacred Heart Prep trailed Mater Dei 7-0 in the second quarter before freshman Andrew Churukian found the net for SHP. Mater Dei extended its lead to 10-1 in the second period before SHP senior Finn Banks scored one of his team-high two goals. The closest the Gators got was 11-4 in the third period. Junior goalie JC Marco finished with 10 saves.
In the third-place match, SHP fell behind by 4-1 in the opening quarter before Banks scored the first of his team-high three goals. Huntington Beach then scored five unanswered goals to grab a 9-2 lead with .03 left before halftime.
SHP got to within 12-5 with 1:24 left in the third period on a goal by Churukian, but no closer.
Menlo School (11-11) finished 12th after falling to Campolindo, 10-7, and Agoura, 14-7, on Saturday. Niko Bhatia, Jayden Kunwar and Miller Feschke all scored twice against Campo, with Kunwar's second goal bring the Knights to within 8-7 with 4:26 left in the fourth. In the loss to Agoura, Menlo senior Chris Xi had three goals and senior James Thygesen added two.
Menlo-Atherton, which went 0-4 in the two-day event, wound up 16th following a 7-6 loss to Laguna Beach and a 15-10 loss to Acalanes, which saw M-A's Mostyn Fero tally six goals. Against Laguna Beach, the Bears tied the match at 6 on a goal by Spencer Gran with 5:30 left in the game. Laguna Beach got the winning goal at the 2:06 mark.
Menlo and M-A both return to PAL Bay Division action this week. Menlo (5-0 in league) hosts Woodside in a regular-season finals on Wednesday (4 p.m.) with a chance to wrap up the division title.
2015 NORTH-SOUTH WATER POLO CHALLENGE
Friday at Sacred Heart Prep
Game 1 -- Sacred Heart Prep 8, Laguna Beach 6
Game 3 -- Loyola 11, Davis 3
Game 5 -- Mater Dei 19, St. Francis 6
Game 7 -- Miramonte 9, Agoura 8
Game 9 -- Davis 10, Laguna Beach 6
Game 11 -- Sacred Heart Prep 9, Loyola 7
Game 13 -- St. Francis 9, Agoura 8
Game 15 -- Mater Dei 14, Miramonte 8
Friday at Menlo-Atherton High
Game 2 -- Huntington Beach 21, Menlo School 8
Game 4 -- Dana Hills 10, Acalanes 7
Game 6 -- Harvard-Westlake 17, Menlo-Atherton 4
Game 8 -- Cathedral Catholic 11, Campolindo 9
Game 10 -- Menlo School 10, Acalanes 7
Game 12 -- Huntington Beach 12, Dana Hills 4
Game 14 -- Campolindo 12, Menlo-Atherton 9
Game 16 -- Harvard-Westlake 16, Cathedral Catholic 7
Saturday at Sacred Heart Prep
Game 17 -- Loyola 11, Miramonte 7
Game 19 -- Cathedral Catholic 11, Dana Hills 7
Game 21 -- Mater Dei 16, Sacred Heart Prep 5
Game 23 -- Harvard-Westlake 12, Huntington Beach 6
Game 25 -- Miramonte 11, Dana Hills 10 (7th place)
Game 27 -- Loyola 11, Cathedral Catholic 6 (5th place)
Game 29 -- Huntington Beach 15, Sacred Heart Prep 6 (3rd place)
Game 31 -- Mater Dei 11, Harvard-Westlake 10 (1st place)
Saturday at Menlo-Atherton High
Game 18 -- Acalanes 15, Menlo-Atherton 10
Game 20 -- St. Francis 7, Laguna Beach 6
Game 22 -- Campolindo 11, Menlo School 8
Game 24 -- Davis 9, Agoura 4
Game 26 -- Laguna Beach 7, Menlo-Atherton 6 (15th place)
Game 28 -- Acalanes 12, St. Francis 9 (13th place)
Game 30 -- Agoura 14, Menlo School 7 (11th place)
Game 32 -- Davis 6, Campolindo 5 (9th place)