KINGSBURG – Josh Lee calls it “the unknown rivalry.”
Lee's Kingsburg High boys water polo team has met Lemoore three times in recent years in the Central Section playoffs.
After Saturday, the rivalry has probably been elevated to the stratosphere. Lemoore rallied from a four-goal deficit mid-way through the third quarter to win 11-9 in an ejection-filled, bloody Central Section Division II quarterfinal game. Along the way a Kingsburg player, Joey LeForge, was sent to the hospital for six stitches after absorbing what Lee said was a head-butt from a Tiger.
LeForge was taken to a Clovis hospital (Selma's was full), was treated, and did not get home until 11:30 p.m.
“Our kids did their best,” Lee said. “It got a little physical and dirty at the end, but Lemoore is a good team. That's just how they play.”
Added Lee: "I can't place all the blame on the officials or our opponents. We had a chance to push through and we didn't."
Kingsburg had one player, goalkeeper Josh Rodriguez, kicked out of the game after he repeatedly protested Lemoore's rough play, Lee said. Viking star Satoshi Shinkawa was also removed from the game after receiving a "major" — his fourth ejection in the final minutes.
"Lemoore is a tough team to play against," Lee said. "In the second half there were some cheap shots taken by a few individuals, but their No. 2 (Cameron Olson) also stayed after the game to talk to Satoshi. They had played together on a club team."
Lemoore scored the game's final six goals, including four by Olson in the final 5:39. He scored twice to pull Lemoore to within 9-8 before Weber Teddy scored the tying goal off a rebound with 3:28 left. Olson scored the go-ahead goal with 1:42 left before the Tigers made multiple defensive stops. Olson added the clincher with his fifth goal of the game at :16.
Prior to the madness, the Vikings excelled with ball movement and aggressive play around the cage.
Kingsburg led 4-3 after the first quarter. The Vikings increased that advantage to 7-3 with goals by Shinkawa, Jackson Huckabee and LeForge.
Jake Goodbar scored late in the second and Cristian Valenzuela added another score with 4:28 left in the third quarter, giving Kingsburg a 9-5 lead. But the joy ended there for the Vikings.
For Kingsburg, Shinkawa led with three goals, Goodbar scored twice and Conor Righetti, Huckabee, LeForge and Valenzuela each scored once.
For the Tigers (21-9), Billy Chedester and Alex Eastridge both scored twice. Teddy and Spencer Denney added a goal apiece.
Lemoore, the No. 5 seed, advanced to Tuesday's semifinals at top-seeded Garces.
Kingsburg, which was the No. 4 seed, ended the season with a record of 17-10 after winning the Central Sequoia League title.
Lee, who is in his fifth season with the team, will lose 11 seniors and will hate to see them go.
“This has been the best group I've coached,” Lee said. “Even after the loss, it was a good season.”