Grant Plunkett's eyes grew as big as saucers as he gained position on his defender at the back post.
Corey Plaster lifted his powerful right arm out of the pool, a wall of water behind it, contorting his hand into a pistol.
All the signs were there, yet there was nothing the Downey boys water polo team could do to slow Johansen's 1-2 connection. Plunkett and Plaster, teammates since they were 13 and virtually inseparable seven days a week, have been giving teams fits for years.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Knights, an upset-minded bunch, were shown no mercy.
Plaster scored five goals, Plunkett had four and senior goalie Geoffrey Risting shut out Downey for three periods in a 10-6 victory that wasn't even that close. Downey (6-2 MMC) scored all six of its goals against the Vikings' reserves in the fourth period to soften the blow.
Zach Kulina also found the back of the net for Johansen, now 8-0 in conference play and inching closer to a third consecutive championship.
The showdown pitted the Modesto Metro Conference's top two teams against one another but the gap between Nos. 1 and 2 is long and widening. The Vikings surged to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on goals by Plunkett, Plaster and Kulina.
Plunkett scored twice more in the second period to stretch the lead to 5-0, before Plaster, the conference's reigning MVP, put the match away in the third period.
Plaster scored four of Johansen's five third-period goals, and assisted on the other, a perfect strike to Plunkett at the back post. The junior rattled the cage with a one-timer, cradling the ball and shooting in one motion.
All Plaster needed to see were Plunkett's eyes. The two also play club for Modesto-Stanislaus, and the connection in the offensive third of the pool is undeniable. Plaster assisted two of Plunkett's goals.
"Everything clicks in the games. When things are tense, it's nice to know you have someone you can play off of," said Plunkett, a third-year varsity player. "We know how each other plays, so we know when to anticipate their moves."
While they sparkled on offense, Risting quietly pieced together another gem in the cage. The senior goalie had four saves in three periods, and had many in the crowd chirping "shutout" in between the third and fourth periods.
"We call him 'The Wall,' " Plaster said of Risting, who snuffed out a 1-on-1 in the second period.
Later, in the third and with Johansen playing a man down, Risting got caught off his line but dove back to the near post just in time for the stop.
"It's ridiculous how much of an advantage it is to have a great goalie," Plunkett said. "Bad situations for us, he can turn those into good situations with a save."
Zach Aaronson scored three of Downey's six goals, while Sam Ciccarelli, Jacob Schanen and Severin Elste had one apiece.
James Burns is the Regional Sports Content Editor of The Modesto Bee and Merced Sun-Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.