We hit the water once again for a thrilling playoff match-up between local rivals.
Lodi Boys Water Polo Polo vs. St Mary’s:
If the last shot Andrew Watts faced in regulation was a five-meter penalty, then the Flames would have had a chance at the Sac-Joaquin Section D-l semi-finals.
Lodi’s senior goalie improbably turned away Rams standout Derek Clappis with under a minute to play in a 10-10 game, bringing the local crowd at Tokay High's pool to a frenzy.
“Top scorer. Five-meter. Tied. And I don’t know, I had this buzz going through my head,” Watts said after the game. “After he picked up the ball, I don’t remember anything. He picks up the ball and it was just ... that feeling came over me when I was just, ‘I got this.’”
And his monumental stop gave Rob Elrod’s team a chance to gut out a victory in overtime.
Or so the Flames thought.
St. Mary’s came up with a turnover off an errant pass, allowing Clappis one last chance from straight away as the clock wound down. He would not miss this time.
The stinging finish capped off what was an intense and entertaining battle. Clappis and the Flames’ Joe VandeLans matched nearly one another goal for goal, combining for nine total scores. The Rams jumped ahead early, but Lodi kept inching closer and closer.
Goals from VanderLans and Mitch Thomas helped knot the contest at 10 apiece late in the fourth quarter, shortly before Watts' big save.
Given another period, VanderLans and company may have prevailed.
But that possibilty is only a hindsight now.