For the Tulare Union Redskins, the second time was not the charm.
After grinding it out in the pool with San Joaquin Memorial through the end of regulation, the Redskins fell to the Panthers 10-6 in overtime in Saturday's Central Section Division II boys water polo final at Clovis North's aquatic complex.
This was the second year in a row that the Redskins made it to a section championship. Last year, Tulare Union (28-5) lost to Garces by one goal in the Division III finals.
"It was a great end to a great season," Tulare Union coach Bill Freeman said. "We got here. We weren't supposed to be here. We were seeded second. I can't complain about our season. We gave it our best shot."
The final score was not indicative of how close and competitive the game was.
In a match that would ultimately be decided in the final minutes of overtime, Tulare Union and Memorial fought neck and neck in a bout that featured four lead changes and four tied scores.
Austin Moules scored 30 seconds into the game to give the Redskins an early 1-0 lead.
Trevor De Leeuw lodged a bullet past Memorial goalkeeper Tristan Ferdinandi to give Tulare Union a 5-4 lead entering the fourth quarter.
The Redskins, trailing 6-5 in the concluding minutes, tied the score at six and forced the game into overtime on an Eric Pederson goal with 2:29 to play.
Moules and Pederson led the Redskins' scoring efforts with two goals each.
Tulare Union freshman goalkeeper James Keen made key saves in the fourth quarter -- fending off three shot attempts from Memorial's Emerson Kirk. Keen finished with 13 saves.
"[Keen] played a phenomenal game," Freeman said. "He played a great game -- especially for a freshman."
A tied game at six after 28 minutes of regulation led the game to be decided in two 3-minute periods of overtime.
In the second overtime period, Memorial gained separation and clinched the D-II section title.
Kirk scored his third goal of the match at the 1:43 mark in the first overtime period to give Memorial a 7-6 lead at the start of the final 3-minute period.
Keen, who recorded five of his 13 saves in overtime, would fend off another Kirk shot attempt two minutes into the final overtime period. But Kirk scored at 2:42 off a Joey Frelkd pass and again with 1:20 left to play to give the Panthers a 9-6 lead -- the first time a team would lead by more than two.
Kirk scored three of his game-high five goals in overtime.
"They went in up and they were on a roll, and we couldn't get our shots to go in," Freeman said. "Sometimes they go in. Sometimes they don't. Today wasn't our day."
Both teams entered the championship matchup with the possibility of capturing their school's first Central Section crown in boys water polo.
Memorial, which took a share of the County/Metro Athletic Conference championship, finished the season at 24-7.
Despite his team coming up short in back-to-back section championships, Freeman grinned when asked about the future of a 28-win team that won the East Yosemite League title this year.
Smiling, Freeman pointed out, "They're all coming back next year. I have one senior."