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Del Oro boys use defense to reach section final

Win over Rio Americano sets up all-SFL title game
By: Kurt Johnson, Gold Country News Service
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In a sport that sees most of its recognition given to the scorers, Thursday night’s second boys water polo semifinal put defense center stage. Del Oro, the No. 2 team in the Sierra Foothill League this season, put the clamps on a high-powered Rio Americano team in a 6-4 Golden Eagle win. The low-scoring match puts Del Oro through to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II final. Tommy McKenzie scored a goal in tight midway through the opening period to give the Golden Eagles the game’s first tally. Alex Obert followed that one minute later to double the advantage, and with Del Oro holding the Raiders scoreless for most of the quarter, the lead held. After Rio finally got one in, Josh McCormick responded for the Eagles just before the horn and Del Oro led 3-1 after one stanza. Goals were hard to come by the rest of the way, as the physical play at the two-meter position combined with heavy pressure around the perimeter put scoring at a premium. Each squad scored a single goal in each of the final three periods, so the early Del Oro scoring proved to make the difference in the final margin. McKenzie and Obert each scored a second goal for the Golden Eagles, and then McCormick fed Collin Johnston one minute into the final period for Del Oro’s last score. After Johnston finished from right in front of the net, the lead increased to 6-3. With the way the defenses were going, that lead was clearly safe, as the Raiders got one more shot in, but that would be it. Obert had five steals to lead the Del Oro defensive effort, while Johnston, McKenzie and JT Roe aided the stingy play in protecting the cage. Del Oro goalie Leland Delehanty was outstanding once again for the Golden Eagles, and he will need to be even better in Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. section final against league rival Granite Bay. The Golden Eagles have been banging on the door against the Grizzlies all year long, but have fallen one or two goals short in each battle. Saturday, they get one last chance to take down their neighbors from Granite Bay, with the section crown as the prize. “Here we go again,” said Del Oro assistant coach Dave Obert. “There are not a lot of surprises now. The keys to the game will be who can play the smartest and stop what the other team likes to do. We can't let Granite Bay counterattack and Vigeant drive for inside water. In a low-scoring defensive game we might get them.”