CORONA DEL MAR — Every time Corona del Mar High plays Long Beach Wilson in boys' water polo, Coach Barry O'Dea knows what to expect.
"A one-goal game," he said.
It seems every time the teams go at it, the game is that close.
The Sea Kings' season opener on Tuesday turned out that way. It just didn't turn out in O'Dea's favor as CdM lost at home, 11-10.
As tight as the game was, O'Dea was wound up just as tight. He let it all out afterward.
He was livid and the first two people he approached on the other side of the pool were the referees. He questioned a non-call late, when with five seconds left, CdM center Matt Sherburne lost the ball before he could fire a potential game-tying goal.
"He didn't have control of the ball," the referee explained to O'Dea as to why he didn't call for an ejection.
"Of course he didn't," O'Dea barked at the ref. "He lets it go and they're on him. That is an ejection. Textbook."
Before O'Dea walked away, he had a few words for the other ref.
"And I want to know why you gave me a yellow card, because I said, 'Hey!'" O'Dea said, referring to an exclusion call he made sure to point out early in the second period, so that the refs didn't miss it. "Yeah, so does every other coach [say that] in water polo. So why are you giving yellow cards? That was a bad call."
O'Dea wasn't the only coach who earned a yellow card. But Tony Martinho will take it as his Bruins prevailed and avoided losing in the Back Bay for the second time in eight days.
CdM's rival, Newport Harbor, upset the Bruins, 9-8, last week. The Sea Kings, ranked No. 8 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll, had chances to stun the No. 4 Bruins (1-1), who return a handful of key players from last year's section runner-up team.
The Sea Kings, semifinalists last year, went into the final period with a 10-9 lead after Garrett Spruth and Jack Trush each found the back of the net late in the third. The lead didn't hold up in the fourth.
At the 5:12 mark, Murphy Slater evened things up with his fourth goal. CdM's goalie, Ryan Hamm, kept it tied with a big save on Slater 11/2 minutes later.
The Sea Kings then went on the first of two power-play opportunities midway through the fourth. Goalie Noah Walter blocked their best shot.
Hamm needed some help when the Bruins had the extra-man advantage. Charlie Rodosky stepped up, making a field block with 2:24 to go. Twenty-three seconds later, the Sea Kings went back on the power-play.
But Walter stoned Sherburne's shot down low. The Sea Kings finished five of 10 on their power-play chances.
They fell behind with 76 seconds left. Grant LaBounty put the Bruins ahead, 11-10.
The hosts still had chances to even it late, thanks to Kirby Morrow's steal with 21 seconds left.
Before CdM could attack, play was stopped with 18 seconds. One of the refs asked for the ball.
"What really kills me is that I have a one-on-one at the other end and [the ref] pulled the ball out, saying that somebody called a timeout, and we didn't call a timeout," O'Dea said. "I had a wide-open pass into Sherburne [set up]."
When play resumed, Sherburne never got a chance to produce his fourth goal. A couple of players crashed toward him and one came up with the ball, only to infuriate O'Dea, who yelled at the ref, "Was that a no call?"
"Anywhere in the world that's an ejection," O'Dea said. "[The ref] says, 'Well, he didn't have control.' Of course he didn't have control, he makes a turn front water and he gets hammered. There was a lot of inconsistencies in that game. That was an ejection in the first quarter. Why isn't an ejection in the fourth quarter?"