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Sailors' comeback falls short in semis

Boys' Water Polo

El Toro goalie Danner gets key steal late as Newport Harbor's season ends in Division I semifinals.

November 16, 2011|By Matt Szabo
(Don Leach / Daily…)

IRVINE — El Toro High senior goalie Garrett Danner called it a risk.

Newport Harbor Coach Robert Lynn called it a gamble.

When Danner came out of the cage in the closing seconds of Wednesday night's CIF Southern Section Division I semifinal match, there were two possible outcomes.

The first was that the Sailors' Dan Stevens would beat Danner in the closing seconds for the second time this year, possibly forcing overtime. The second was that Danner would steal the ball, helping ensure a Chargers victory.

El Toro Coach Don Stoll has called Danner the best goalie he's had in a coaching career that spans more than four decades. His senior came up with a clutch play.

Danner stole the ball with 12 seconds left as El Toro hung on to end the Sailors' season, 10-9, at Woollett Aquatics Center.

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"I knew I had to take the risk, come out and get it away," said Danner, who had 11 saves in helping the Chargers advance to the final for the fourth straight year. "It worked out well for us. I'm used to coming out of the cage a lot, I like to come out of the cage, and I just knew that was my best bet. When he's that close, not much I can do to block that shot."

No. 3-seeded El Toro (28-3) advances to Saturday night's title match against top-seeded defending champion Mater Dei. The Monarchs bested Loyola, 19-5, in the other semifinal.

The Sailors ran a play coming out of a timeout in the final 30 seconds. Lynn said he wanted an exclusion called as junior center Andrew Silvers worked for position, but it wasn't called. Stevens got open near the left post, but Danner came over and stole it.

"[Danner] gambled and he won, so good for him," Lynn said. "He played a great game, and his gamble paid off on that last play."

No. 2-seeded Newport Harbor (25-2) had an 18-game winning streak snapped. The streak included a victory over El Toro, by the same 10-9 score, in the teams' previous meeting Oct. 15. In that one, Stevens' counterattack goal with 15 seconds left — past a charging Danner — was the game-winner.

The Sailors couldn't be too worked up about Wednesday's last play. A slow start hurt even more.

El Toro took a 5-1 lead late in the second quarter, before the Sailors' Ryan Fowler and Curtis Fink scored to cut the deficit in half by intermission.

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