Heart not enough as poloists fall in tourney

"If heart could have won the state championship, the BHS boys’ water polo team would have had it in the bag. Instead, two bitter defeats and a pair of disciplinary actions ended Team Ray’s win streak, title hopes and season, leaving the squad with a fourth-place finish at last weekend’s state championship tournament.“It was a good four years,” said senior Jeff Pratt. “Not the best way to end it, but it was fun.” Team Ray was jittery but bound for glory as they entered the competition down three players, including Cooper Rooks and Prentiss Andrews, sidelined by disciplinary actions, and the convalescing Mikkel Hong. Goalkeeper Gareth Owens was suffering from a painful shoulder injury but was able to play. The squad came out strong in the Saturday afternoon semifinal against Mercer Island, getting a quick goal from co-captain Kurt Schuler off a pass by Pratt. Ray’s defensive plan, which was to play tight on Mercer’s lightning-fast offense, kicked in but the referee’s whistle started blowing with a Team Ray ejection within the first 20 seconds of the game and never seemed to stop thereafter. With three Ray kick-outs to follow, Owens soared past the pain to make three key saves but the Islanders scored on a man-up situation to end the quarter 1-1. Second-quarter action started with a rocket from Schuler, and an answering goal from the Islanders on another power play. Mercer was allowed a controversial goal on another man-up situation, and ominously, the tone for the rest of the game was set. On a BHS man-up, Joey Barrett scored off a touch from Dan Davies, and minutes later Jeff Bartunek scored off a pass from Trevor Mahnken to put Bainbridge ahead. Owens saved a power shot on a two-man breakaway, but the Islanders scored on another man-up. Jeff Pratt later scored on a penalty throw, and the quarter ended with a 5-5 tie.Despite valiant third-quarter defense, the Islanders scored three times on three Team Ray ejections. But junior Jeff Christensen lobbed one into the corner of the net to keep the game close at 8-6 as the quarter ended. Early in the final period, the Islanders stole the ball and scored off a breakaway. In another questionable call, the referee awarded Mercer a penalty throw but Owens stuffed the shot. Rolling on the momentum, Pratt followed with a goal, bringing the score to 9-7. Mercer scored off a Ray deflection and Owens saved two more. But Team Ray was showing their fatigue and couldn’t look to the bench for the needed support when the Islanders scored off an unmarked player. Schuler rallied with a final Ray goal to close the game at 11-8. “We played as hard as we could,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that as hard as we played, we couldn’t take it. They are so much faster than us, even though our offense is better.”Team Ray then faced a tough Newport team in the consolation contest. Newport surged ahead 4-0 and held the lead for most of the first half before Rooks, activated for the final game, finally scored.In a third-quarter offensive rush, however, Ray scored four goals with two by Barrett and one apiece by Davies and Rooks. Despite numerous steals, turnovers and three impressive saves by Owens, Newport blunted Bainbridge’s momentum by scoring on a breakaway steal and walking another in on a man-up situation to end the quarter ahead, 6-5. A tight defense with turnovers kept Team Ray’s powerful offense off pace in the final period. With another goal off a breakaway, Newport was on the verge of putting the game away when Rooks powered one in from mid-pool. In the last minutes, Newport scored off a penalty throw, balanced by a final goal from Schuler to close the scoring at 10-7. “It was an excellent game, “ said Andrews, who was forced to watch from the sidelines. “It was hard for us to come out of a losing game, but we rallied and (coach) Steve (Killpack) helped us come together.”Rooks commented: “This team has learned that winning is not the only thing and not the most important thing.” Said Killpack: “I’m proud of my team. They pulled together and played awesome.”"

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