Golden West boys come back against El Diamante

Golden West’s Cohen Swanson shoots the ball against El Diamante. With their win, the Trail Blazers improved to 4-1 in league play and hold second place in the East Yosemite League Standings.(Kason Clark)

The Trail Blazers overcome a fourth-quarter deficit in a 13-11 win over the Miners; the Blazers now hold second place in the East Yosemite League

VISALIA – With sole possession of second place in the East Yosemite League standings on the line, Golden West and El Diamante boys water polo battled it out on Tuesday night, Oct. 10. After the visiting Trail Blazers took an early lead, the Miners stormed back to take a 10-8 lead early in the fourth quarter.

But the Blazers responded with five straight goals to retake the lead. El Diamante eventually scored, but Golden West held on for the 13-11 road victory. As the Blazers found their offense late in the game, Golden West head coach Tom Felsted was happy with how they finished the night.

“I’m pleased with how the boys handled themselves,” Felsted said. “We did a pretty good job of finding the free man as we made a slight adjustment to our offense and we were able to locate the free man.”

Jagar Brooks was instrumental for the Blazers’ comeback as he scored three goals in the fourth quarter. After falling behind early in the fourth, Brooks and his teammates pulled their heads together and began to execute.

“We just had to remember what we had worked on as a team every day in practice and just not let ourselves get down,” Brooks said. “We just work so well as a team so we were able to just rally back and win the game.”

The Blazers improved their record to 9-12 on the season, but more importantly, 4-1 in the East Yosemite League. With that record, the Blazers now hold second place in the standings. With that league record with just a few weeks left to go, Felsted believes the Blazers are beginning to find their stride.

“The boys have been doing better and better and we’re becoming more and more comfortable with each other,” Felsted said.

The Blazers started the night strong as they took a 4-2 lead in the first quarter. Brooks then scored to start the second quarter to make it a 5-2 game. But Mateo La Serna responded with back-to-back goals for the Miners to make it 5-4.

Over the rest of the half, the Blazers and Miners exchanged goals. With less than a minute to go until halftime, Golden West’s Armando Fregoso scored to push the lead to 7-5. But La Serna responded to make it a 7-6 game heading into halftime.

Early in the second half, Carson Holiday made a goal from deep to tie the game. The Blazers and Miners then exchanged goals to keep the game at a stalemate. With the third period winding to a close, Holden Benevento scored to give the Miners a 9-8 lead at home. Connor Cooper then started the fourth with a deep shot into the net to increase El Diamante’s lead to 10-8.

With things looking dire for the Blazers, Brooks looked to take control. On back-to-back possessions, Brooks was fouled and was given a five-meter shot. On both attempts, Brooks knocked down the shots to tie the game. While he was the one who made the goals, he made sure to credit his teammates for giving him those opportunities.

“I was just happy that my teammates put me in that position. I wouldn’t be able to do anything if they couldn’t set those up for me and put me in a position for those five-meter shots,” Brooks said. “I’m just grateful for them and I just made the shots for them.”

Moments later, Cohen Swanson scored to give Golden West the lead. Brooks then scored again for his sixth goal of the night to lead his team. Fregoso then scored himself to make it, 13-10, with about three minutes left.

The Miners tried to come back as Zachary Moreno scored to cut the deficit to two goals. But the Blazers shut down the Miners the rest of the way as they kept the ball away and milked the clock.

“We just had to work on our ball handling and keep the ball away from them,” Brooks said. “We were just making sure that we were being smart because this game takes a lot of smarts and we just had to remember to use our heads.”

After letting the game slip away from them, El Diamante is now 7-10 on the year and 3-2 in the East Yosemite League, good for third in the standings. Meanwhile, the Blazers will be looking to stay hot after this win with more league games coming up. As they look to finish the season strong, Felsted is confident the Blazers can keep up their play.

“Fundamentally, we are doing a really good job with our swim sets and passing and we’re just asking them to make slight adjustments,” Felsted said. “We do a pretty good job trying to get them in a position to be successful so that they can adjust and move forward.”

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