COSTA MESA — Los Alamitos’ boys water polo team might not be part of a high-profile league or have much recent experience in the Division 1 playoffs but the Griffins showed Thursday that their scrappy style can knock off a heavyweight.
Attacker Caleb Francisco and Nicholas Keane each scored five goals as the No. 9 Griffins defeated reigning Trinity League champion and No. 8 Santa Margarita 13-9 in a first-round match at the South Coast Tournament at Costa Mesa.
Los Alamitos (2-2) later fell to top-seeded Huntington Beach 16-7 in the second round but the Griffins showcased a strong press and dedicated counterattack against the Eagles (3-3).
The reigning Wave League champion Griffins forced at least five turnovers in each period and led for the final 21 minutes, 34 seconds of the match.
Francisco added three steals to help lead the defense. Junior goalie Tomas De Luca added six saves in his matchup against Santa Margarita goalie Zach Cwertnia (seven saves).
Los Alamitos led 9-4 at halftime before Santa Margarita trimmed its deficit to 9-7 in the third. But the Griffins called timeout and received a steal and breakaway goal from sophomore Cole Francisco to end the Eagles’ surge.
Keane then scored the first two goals of the fourth, converting a strike from center and power-play chance to give the Griffins a 12-7 lead.
Junior Nick Leung added two goals for Los Alamitos, which competed in the Division 2 playoffs in 2019 and 2018.
Nicholas Ohlson scored three goals to lead the Eagles while Spencer Averitt added four assists and played strong 2-meter defense.
In the quarterfinals Friday at 6 p.m., Huntington Beach will face Surf League foe Laguna Beach, which beat The Bishop’s 12-10 in the second round.
In other results, Mater Dei defeated Loyola 13-8 to advance to the quarterfinals to take on Trinity League rival Orange Lutheran, 14-8 winner against Oaks Christian.
Newport Harbor also reached the quarterfinals and will play host Harvard-Westlake.
Sacred Heart Prep and Cathedral Catholic will meet in the other quarterfinal at Foothill.
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