Buhach Colony senior Joe Bustabade’s main focus on Friday night was guarding one of the most explosive offensive players in the Area in Atwater senior Connor Norton.
Bustabade did more than that.
With the help of his teammates, Bustabade helped limit Norton to three goals and then on the other end of the pool Bustabade led the third-seed Thunder with five goals as Buhach Colony defeated No. 6 Atwater 10-6 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II quarterfinals in a clash of crosstown rivals.
“That’s amazing,” said Buhach Colony coach Dan McIlhatton, whose team improved to 22-6 this season. “Joe is our do-it-all guy. He started out mainly as a defender. He’s turned into an offensive threat this year.”
It was the fourth meeting between the two teams with Buhach Colony winning all four by four or less goals.
“Sometimes in sports you match up against a team that’s better than you and tonight Buhach was better than us in both facets of the game,” said Atwater coach David Svendsen, whose team finishes the season with a 18-12 record.
The Thunder will advance to the semifinals on Wednesday at Tokay High against No. 2 seed Rocklin, which edged No. 7 Johansen 11-8 on Friday.
“It’s great,” said McIlhatton. “I’ve talked to the old coaches at this school and we’ve never made it this far. This is uncharted territory for us.”
The Thunder did it with defense.
Buhach Colony didn’t give up a goal until over 10 minutes into the game. The Thunder built a 3-0 lead in the first quarter by taking advantage of a pair of man-up situations. Two Atwater ejections led to goals by William Seifert and Bustabade.
Buhach Colony senior later blocked a shot in the field, which led to a quick strike in transition as the ball moved from Jonahs Chavez to Zach Fookes (four goals) for an easy goal and a 3-0 lead with 1:01 left in the first quarter.
The Thunder led 5-0 before the Falcons offense finally got on track.
Atwater stormed back with a 4-0 run as Norton got free for two goals. The Falcons were able to pressure and get out in transition themselves to climb back into the game.
“Once the nerves and adrenaline wore off tonight we got back to playing Atwater water polo,” Svendsen said. “In the second quarter we generated steals in counter attack, on the perimeter and we were able to score in transition. Buhach did an excellent job of taking care of Connor Norton in the front court offense, but what we told the boys was that they can’t double team him if we are swimming in transition.”
The Thunder defense again settled in, holding the Falcons scoreless in the third quarter and Bustabade scored twice on the other end to extend the BC lead to 8-4 heading into the fourth quarter.
Atwater never got closer than four goals the rest of the way.
“At no time did I think we were safe,” McIlhatton said. “I knew they could comeback. Atwater is a powerful team. They are a great team. They’re never going to give up”