LODI– Rio Americano has been a big playoff rivalry with the Granite Bay boys water polo team for years. Head coach Andrew Reego would know.
Reego, a Granite Bay grad who won two section titles as a player with the Grizzlies, now leads a team of his own that can call itself champions.
With a 9-6 win over No. 2 Rio Americano Saturday, the Granite Bay won its second Sac-Joaquin Section championship in the last three years.
Sophomore Anthony Gross led the Grizzlies attack with three goals and Chris McCarron and Akom Khera added two apiece, while goalkeeper Dawson Vincent had roughly 12 saves in the championship effort.
“This was supposed to be a rebuilding year,” said Reego. “But we were able to piece together an incredible team that stepped up and won a section championship. It’s a testament to how hard they worked.”
With its sixth overall section banner, Granite Bay moved into a tie with Lodi for fourth place on the all-time boys water polo list. The Grizzlies’ five titles at the Division II level are the second most behind only Rio Americano, who has eight at the same level.
“For me, it was especially fulfilling,” said Reego. “As a player, we beat Rio twice in the section championships and now I have one as a coach against them. It’s hard not to smile when it comes full circle.”
Granite Bay (20-11-1) clung to a 4-3 lead at halftime, but score three times in the third period while holding the Raiders without a goal.
To get to the title game, the No. 1 seed Grizzlies took out 9-seed Merced, 18-5, in the quarterfinal round and No. 4 Johansen, 12-4, in the semis. Its 13 goals-per-game average in the playoffs was the highest total in the D-II bracket.
Vincent was the Sierra Foothill League’s Most Valuable Goalie. Also making the All-League team for the Grizzlies were Akom Khera, Troy Hubiak, Chris McCarron, Ben Scates and Gross.
Rio Americano knocked out the Capital Valley Conference champion Woodcreek in the semifinals, 14-6. Woodcreek, the No. 3 seed in D-II, beat Grace Davis of Modesto, 13-2, in the first round and snuck past Ponderosa, 7-6, in the quarterfinals before meeting the Raiders.
The championship games were originally scheduled to be played at Woodcreek High in Roseville, but due to the air quality from the Northern California fires, games were moved to Tokay High in Lodi.
The CIF will announce the NorCal brackets either Tuesday or Wednesday.
“I think we’ll be either a 2- or 3-seed playing at Del Oro,” said Reego.
In the girls’ pool…
The Granite Bay girls team, who won its third consecutive SFL title earlier this season and featured the league MVP in Natalie Ruybal, met a juggernaut of a Davis team, which coasted past the Grizzlies in the semifinals of the Division I girls bracket, 20-1. Davis eventually beat St. Francis in the finals to win its section-leading 15th banner.
St. Francis took down the Woodcreek girls, who also won the CVC crown, in the D-I semis, 9-6. Woodcreek drew a No. 2 seed and beat No. 7 Lodi, 17-4, in the section quarterfinals.
A pair of 6-seeds, Del Oro in the D-II bracket and Bear River in the D-III bracket, each reached their respective semifinals. But that’s where the upsets stopped.
The Golden Eagles fell to No. 2 Tokay last week, 7-3, and the Lady Bruins lost to No. 2 Kimball, 16-7, in the D-III postseason.
Kimball played Sonora for the third consecutive season for the D-III title, with Sonora victorious in the last two. Rio Americano beat Tokay to capture its second straight section title and 12th overall – the most in Division II history.