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    Beckman boys water polo solves late surprise by Portola in Pacific Coast League thriller
    • October 20, 2023

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    IRVINE — Dane Warren of Beckman shouted the surprising goalie switch to his fellow defenders as the Portola offense emerged from its timeout in the closing seconds of regulation Thursday.

    Trailing by one goal with 12 seconds left, reigning Orange County boys water polo coach of the year Kate Avery of Portola moved highly-scoring Ryder Tonkovich to goalie and then sent him across mid-pool to lead the Bulldogs’ 7-on-6 attack permitted the last few years under new rules.

    “Smart idea,” Beckman coach Tijmen Egtberts said.

    The Patriots’ defense was pretty clever, too.

    Beckman sent two defenders at Tonkovich as the ball quickly rotated back to the point, forcing the junior to pass the ball to his left. Zander Huynh anticipated the pass and grabbed the steal to seal the Patriots’ 12-11 victory at Portola High.

    “We had a defense prepared for a man-down like that,” Egtberts said, “so we knew what to do, and we ran it perfectly. … Just high-IQ defense.”

    Beckman capped its regular season in the Pacific Coast League with a 7-0 record and secured the No. 1 seed for the league tournament next week.

    Portola, the defending Pacific Coast champion, fell to 6-1 in league and will be the No. 2 seed.

    The CIF-SS Division 2 contenders exchanged friendly “See you next week” remarks during the postgame handshake.

    “Same time next week, I think we’ll go head to head for the league title at Woodbridge,” Avery said. “Beckman is a good team. They’ve got solid players. They’ve got great energy.”

    Portola, the runner-up last season in Division 3, also displayed those qualities as it chased Beckman in the fourth period.

    The Bulldogs trimmed a three-goal to one and a pair of two-goal deficits to a single goal. But Beckman senior Bradley Eisman scored the eventual game-winning goal by netting a perimeter shot with 2:58 left for a 12-10 lead.

    Eisman, who started the season on the junior varsity, scored both of his goals in the fourth from about 6 meters as he capitalized on Portola’s dropping defense.

    Tonkovich answered with his seventh goal on a power-play chance with 2:11 remaining but Beckman’s defense held from there.

    “The last three defensive possessions we had in this game was the best defense we’ve played all year,” Egtberts said. “If we do that, we win.”

    Goalie Vi Leus made six of his seven blocks in the second half for Beckman.

    AJ Sexton paced the Patriots’ offense with four goals while Eisman and Warren added two apiece.

    Portola goalie Asher Wettstein dueled with Leus by making six saves.

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    ​ Orange County Register