John Anderson made a big impact for the Palo Alto boys water polo team Thursday without scoring a goal.
“He's my best defender who makes plays multiple times in a game,” Vikings' coach Aaron Johnson said following a 10-8 victory over Los Gatos in the semifinal of the SCVAL tournament at Los Altos.
With Paly hanging onto to a 9-8 advantage, the Wildcats had the ball with less than 30 seconds following a full timeout. Los Gatos never even made an entry pass thanks to Anderson's reflexive action in recovering a loose ball.
“In a situation like that, he's going to be on the opposing team's best ball handler,” Johnson said. “He knows to be ready and if they show him the ball, he'll take it.”
There were only two lead changes in the game but the score was tied six times as both teams had an answer any time the other scored.
Thomas Smale scored the second of his two goals midway through the third period to put Palo Alto ahead, 5-4. It as not until Peter Wisowaty scored with eight seconds remaining that the Vikings opened a two-goal lead.
The victory sets up Saturday's noon championship at Los Altos between Paly (19-9) and regular-season champion Gunn (19-6).
The Titans advanced with a 17-4 victory over the host Eagles as Jack Mallery scored seven times.
“Throughout league play we've tried to involve everybody,” Mallery said. “We want to work toward a team game, where we focus on taking the extra pass.”
The title game not only features the top two teams in the SCVAL De Anza Division, it's also a family affair. Matt Johnson, Aaron's brother, coaches Gunn.
“I don't think that gives me any kind of advantage,” Gunn's Johnson said. “I've only seen Paly play a handful of times. For us, it's just keep getting better and keep our goals in mind. This was a great game for us since the last time we played it was close.”
The Titans opened a 7-1 first-quarter lead and took a 12-2 advantage into halftime. Gunn never lost its edge, continuing to play hard.
“We played a lot better,” Mallery said. “We prepared a lot and decided to go ahead and figure it out the best way.”
Aaron Babian added four goals and Patrick Zhao scored three for the Titans, who finished 14-0 during league play and handing the Vikings their only two losses.
“I look forward to two great teams playing,” Mallery said. “I have friends on the team so it will be a lot of fun.”
Quinn Hamilton, JP Napaa, and Lucas Batista rounded out the scoring for Gunn.
Jared Stanley scored three goals, each time giving Palo Alto the lead, including a no-look score for the game's first goal.
Alex Beaudry scored twice, with Andrew Jozefov and Eric Maser also adding goals.
In the PAL tournament, Menlo (24-2) beat Burlingame, 16-5, in a semifinal match and will play in Saturday's championship match against either Menlo-Atherton or Half Moon Bay at 2:45 p.m. at M-A.
Ben Wagner and Connor Enright each scored three times to lead the Knights. Jack King, Sam Untrecht, Luke Arnold and Niko Bhatia each added a pair.
Goalies Tiago Bonchristiano, Ben Rosenblatt and Josh Poulos combined for 11 saves.
In the WCAL tournament, Sacred Heart Prep (18-6) took care of Valley Christian, 14-7, in one semifinal. The Gators and host Bellarmine meet in Saturday's title match at 2:30 p.m.
Andrew Churukian, Chris Rowland and Larsen Weigle each scored three times to pace SH Prep. Corey Tanis scored twice.
Girls water polo
Maddy Johnston scored six goals and Sacred Heart Prep topped Presentation, 13-2, in the semifinals of the WCAL tournament on Thursday. Maddie Pendolino and Layla Waters each added three goals.
The Gators (18-8) meet St. Francis in the championship match at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bellarmine.
In the PAL tournament, Georgia Lewis recorded seven saves and Castilleja smothered Menlo, 14-3, to reach Saturday's championship at Menlo-Atherton at 1 p.m.
Minhee Chung had four goals to lead the Gators (16-8), who play Woodside in the final. The Wildcats edged the Bears, 8-7, in the other semifinal match.
M-A and Menlo meet for third-place at 1 p.m.
In the SCVAL tournament at Gunn, second-seeded Mountain View beat Cupertino, 20-11, in the only available result. The Spartans were led by Madison Menard with seven goals.
Mountain View plays either Gunn or Fremont on Friday at 4:20 p.m. while top-seeded Los Gatos meets either Palo Alto or Los Altos at 5:40 p.m.
Palo Alto and Gunn received at-large bids to Tuesday's Central Coast Section, joining Lynbrook out of the SCVAL. Los Gatos also received an at-large bid.
Castilleja and Harker join Menlo out of the WBAL, along with individual qualifiers Carolione Park and Cami Steppe of Sacred Heart Prep and Pinewood's Megan Chou.
Menlo-Atherton completed an undefeated PAL Bay Division season, something that eluded the Bears last year.
M-A (14-0, 26-4) beat host Burlingame (10-4, 17-11), 25-16, 25-15, 25-20, on Thursday for its 25th consecutive victory.
The Bears spread the wealth around, led by Jacqueline DiSanto with 11 kills and 10 digs and Eliza Grover with 10 kills. Marit Hoyem and Alicia Letvin combined for another 11 kills and Erica Fischer and Kiana Sales each had 16 digs.
Senior setters Casey Olsen and Kirby Knapp split 42 assists down the middle and combined for 16 digs.
Palo Alto (11-1, 21-9) polished off host Monta Vista (6-6, 18-7), 29-27, 25-22, 25-14, to end its SCVAL championship season.
Sacred Heart Prep (7-3, 22-10) dropped its regular-season finale, 25-19, 25-18, 21-25, 25-13, to visiting Notre Dame-Belmont, the WBAL Foothill Division champion.
Cate Desler had 10 kills and Ally Polverari and Natalie Zimits each added nine. Alexa Thompson and Haley Martella shared 30 assists and Caroline Caruso added 14 digs.
Castilleja (8-4, 17-13) swept the King's Academy and Pinewood lost to host Crystal Springs in four sets in the Skyline Division.
The Gators finished third, a game behind TKA. Pinewood (3-9, 6-16) was fifth, followed by Priory (2-10) and Eastside College Prep (1-11).