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by: TIMES PHOTO: DAN BROOD - The Southridge boys water polo team celebrates their third straight state championship 11-10 win over Newberg on Friday.


CORVALLIS — No. 3 sure didn’t come easy.

But, for the Southridge High School boys’ water polo team, it certainly was worth celebrating — twice.

The Skyhawks claimed their third straight Class 6A state championship — first celebrating after scoring an 11-10 win over Newberg in the title tilt and then having to wait out a ruling on a Tiger protest before celebrating again — Saturday in front of a large, loud crowd at the Osborn Aquatic Center.

“This means everything to us,” said Southridge senior David Stiling, who was named the state tournament Most Valuable Player. “It’s been quite a ride — three in a row.”

“It’s just great,” Southridge junior Matt Braun added. “We completed it — three in a row.”

For the Skyhawks, who also defeated Newberg for the state crown in both 2011 and 2012, this year’s championship satisfaction came with a big helping of suspense and drama.

With 5 minutes and 8 seconds remaining in the third quarter, and with Southridge holding a 7-5 lead, Newberg scored what looked to be a goal on a shot by junior Craig Beecher. But that goal was disallowed due to a violation.

Newberg coach Jim McMaster argued with tournament officials and, at that point, said the Tigers were playing the rest of the contest under protest.by: TIMES PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Southridge senior Blake Hokkanen looks to drive the ball toward the Newberg goal.

Southridge went on to win the intense, back-and-forth battle 11-10, getting what turned out to be the game-winning goal on a shot by freshman Kieran Halewyn coming with 1:19 left to play in the contest.

When the final horn sounded, the Skyhawks began their victory celebration, only to find out they had to wait out a resolution of Newberg’s protest.

And it wasn’t a short wait.

In fact, more than a half hour passed without a resolution.

“It was nerve-wracking,” Braun said. “It was very suspenseful.”

There were also rumblings going through the Osborn Aquatic Center that the game could be restarted at the point of where the protest took place.

“Mentally, I was back in it,” Stiling said. “I was ready for that. It would have been rough, but I was ready.”

No need.

A little after 9 p.m. Saturday, an announcement was made over the public address system that Newberg’s protest had been denied — and another Southridge celebration, a bigger one, began.

“It was special to have it confirmed,” Braun said. “It took the weight off our shoulders.”by: TIMES PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Southridge freshman Kieran Halewyn (right) looks to pass the ball past Newberg junior Craig Beecher.

“It was great,” Halewyn said. “We got the three-peat. That’s pretty good.”

“I think the third win is most special,” Stiling said. “It’s hard to stay at the top. You have to work harder when you’re on top.”

And the Skyhawks looked to be ready to work hard right from the start of Saturday’s state championship game.

Back-to-back goals by Braun gave Southridge, which never trailed in the contest, a quick 2-0 lead with 5 minutes and 15 seconds remaining in the seven-minute first quarter.

Stiling scored two goals later in the period and junior Camden Rimby scored off an assist from Halewyn to help the Skyhawks take a 5-3 lead into the second quarter.

Southridge looked to keep rolling in the second quarter. Braun and junior Mark Moshofsky scored on back-to-back follow-up shots to push the lead to 7-3 with 4:20 left in the first half. A penalty-shot goal by Beecher made the score 7-4 with 2:39 remaining in the second period.

by: TIMES PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Southridge senior David Stiling goes up high to shoot over Newberg senior Corbin Day.

Neither team scored in the rest of the quarter, with Southridge freshman goalie Baylor Whitehead blocking a hard-thrown skip shot by Newberg senior Landry Saunders with 1:43 remaining in the half to preserve the Skyhawks’ three-goal lead at the break.

However, Newberg junior David Flores-Juarez scored in the opening minute of the third quarter to trim the margin to 7-5. Then, following the Tigers’ disallowed goal, the intensity seemed to pick up even more.

Halewyn scored off a pass to the inside by Braun to give Southridge an 8-5 lead with 3:43 left in the third quarter. But Newberg answered back with a follow-up goal by Saunders just 15 seconds later.

A breakaway goal by Stiling pushed the margin back to three, at 9-6, but Beecher scored on a shot from mid-pool with eight seconds left in the period to cut the lead to 9-7 going into the fourth quarter.

The Tigers then got back-to-back goals by Flores-Juarez to start the final stanza, tying the game at 9-9 with 6:15 left to play in the contest.

Neither team was able to score in the next four minutes, with Whitehead blocking open shots by both Newberg senior Spencer McMaster and Flores-Juarez in that span to help keep the game tied.

The Skyhawks had a chance to break the tie after sophomore Arman Grigorian was fouled going for a follow-up shot in front of the Newberg goal.

Senior Blake Hokkanen converted the ensuing penalty shot to give Southridge a 10-9 lead with 2:03 remaining.

But Newberg answered back just six seconds later when Tiger senior Corbin Day scored on a close-range spin-around attempt. Southridge got what turned out to be the game-winner when Halewyn, after taking a pass from Hokkanen, scored from in front of the Tiger goal to give the Skyhawks an 11-10 advantage with 1:19 left to play.by: TIMES PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Southridge senior Blake Hokkanen (12) hugs senior David Stiling following the win over Newberg.

“That was exciting,” Halewyn said. “I was open in the middle, shot and scored. It was exhilarating.”

“He came up huge,” Stiling said of Halewyn. “I think he was our MVP of this game.”

Newberg had two last opportunities in the final minute. A shot by Tiger senior Barrett Allen flew over the crossbar of the Southridge goal with 51 seconds left, and Day’s long-range attempt with 24 seconds remaining came up short of the goal, leaving Southridge to put away the 11-10 win and its third straight state championship.

“That’s been our goal since the beginning of the season,” Braun said. “That was so much fun.”

Braun and Stiling led a balanced Southridge scoring attack in the championship game with three goals apiece. Halewyn had a pair of goals and Rimby, Moshofshy and Hokkanen each scored once.

Southridge got to the state championship game by scoring a 20-11 win over Lake Oswego in Friday’s semifinal round at the Osborn Aquatic Center.

Saturday’s championship game marked the final high school contest for Southridge seniors Stiling and Hokkanen.

Other members of the Southridge team include sophomore Nick Vialette, freshman Chris Schmitt, junior Caleb Rygh, junior Scott Kirkpatrick, freshman Nathan Hoppenrath, sophomore Darius Diamond, freshman David Duncan and freshman Sina Sajadpour. Erik Akerman is the Skyhawks’ head coach.

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