IRVINE — The final goal of the season for the Corona del Mar High boys' water polo team was impressive.
CdM senior Jake Wyatt passed the ball the length of the pool to senior Danny Marshall, who redirected it into the net at the buzzer Wednesday night at Irvine's Woollett Aquatics Center.
Unfortunately for the Sea Kings, this wasn't a game-winning play or anything close to it. They were able to keep up with top-seeded Mater Dei for exactly one quarter before the Monarchs took charge.
Mater Dei took control in the second quarter and cruised to an 18-9 victory in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinal match, ending CdM's season.
Mater Dei (30-0), which registered its Southern Section-record 78th straight victory, will go for its third consecutive Division 1 crown on Saturday night at 7 p.m. back at Woollett. The Monarchs will play No. 2-seeded Long Beach Wilson, which edged No. 3 Loyola, 6-5, in another semifinal.
CdM (23-7), which had an nine-match winning streak snapped, will still take positives out of its season.
"I think we competed," CdM Coach Barry O'Dea said. "I'm real proud of the fact that they kept going; they didn't just shut down. We kept preaching that. I'm obviously disappointed, but ecstatic with the year. I thought we had a great season. I thought the boys played real hard in the last couple weeks here, and I'm proud of what they were able to accomplish, getting to the semis after getting moved up to D1."
Wednesday's match was the second time this season the Sea Kings and Monarchs had met. The first time the teams played, CdM scored the game's first two goals before Mater Dei rallied to post a 13-5 nonleague victory on Oct. 13. In that game, Mater Dei scored 10 unanswered goals at one point.
It was more of the same in the rematch. CdM hung with Mater Dei early. Armen Mavusi, Kyle Trush and Blake Motal all scored goals as the Sea Kings trailed just 4-3 after the first quarter.
But Mater Dei scored five consecutive goals in the second, taking a commanding 9-3 halftime lead. CdM was held scoreless for a period of 11:43 until Trush scored again midway through the third quarter, on a pass by Reid Chase.
By then, the Monarchs had scored eight unanswered and built a 12-4 lead, largely on the strength of junior Kent Inoue (seven goals) on the counterattack. Many of those counter opportunities were created after tough saves by junior goalie McQuin Baron, who finished with 15 saves.
"They're big and they're strong, but they weren't good on defense on the counterattack," Mater Dei Coach Chris Segesman said. "They got lost in transition. So that was our goal, to push the counterattack even if we didn't have the advantage, just to try to create something off that counterattack. And it worked.
"[Baron] was shaky the first quarter, then he just really got comfortable. When McQuin's on, we could play an all-star team and we'd still be in the game. It's hard to score on him. Obviously, he's the backbone of our team and the heartbeat of our team. We rode off him tonight, especially in the second quarter."
Newport Beach resident Nick Silvers, a sophomore, had four goals and a steal for Mater Dei. Newport Beach resident Jon Walters, a senior center bound for USC, had three goals and also drew two exclusions.
Jon's younger brother, James Walters, scored once and led all players with four steals. Other Newport-Mesa residents on Mater Dei include Jeff O'Brien, Neil LeVecke, Connor Talleur, Stig Terrebonne and Carter Yonkers, a backup goalie who had a save in the fourth quarter.
Trush, Chase and Marshall all had two goals for CdM, and Chase added a team-high three steals. Jack Harryman also scored for the Sea Kings, who got six saves and three steals from senior goalie Patrick McKenzie.
CdM centers Mavusi and Ty Hack combined to draw five exclusions for CdM.
Chase, CdM's leading scorer with 84 goals, did not find the back of the net until late in the third quarter.
"They were shadowing on Reid everywhere he went tonight," O'Dea said. "They weren't going to let him get off; they did a good job there on Reid."
O'Dea, who had 13 seniors on his squad, said he was proud of his players.
"It was a good year," he said. "We're 23-7 at the end of it all. We finished top four, and we're in the semifinals in a 7 o'clock game. It's good.
"We were just playing the best high school team around."