TURLOCK -- It was a matchup between two of the top girls water polo teams in the Stanislaus District. And it lived up to the billing.
Johansen scored the game's final seven goals, including the game-winner from Brandie McGee with six seconds left, in a 10-9 victory over host Pitman High on Thursday.
"It was just an awesome ending," said McGee, who scored both of her goals in the fourth quarter. "After their start, we weren't thinking it was going to end like this."
The Pride, the top contender in the Central California Conference, rode five goals from hole-set Lyndsay Sutterley to a 7-2 halftime lead. There was little they couldn't do. Every time Sutterley got open inside, a teammate found her for the easy goal.
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"That first half, that's how we should play," Pitman coach Anne Cornell said. "But we didn't battle in the second half like we did in the first."
And Johansen began to chip away at the lead.
Jodi Hanson (five goals) scored at the beginning of the third quarter, and she and Andie Plunkett scored at the end of the period to pull to within 9-5.
"Somewhere in the third, we got the lightbulb," McGee said. "You could feel the momentum shift, and we started playing a lot better."
Hanson and Mcgee scored early in the fourth, then Jodi Hanson and Taylor Hanson scored within 20 seconds of each other to tie it up with two minutes left.
"We had some early opportunities, but they didn't work out," Johansen coach Brent Bohlender said. "But the girls kept coming back, kept hanging on."
It was a big win for the Vikings (2-0), which only have two returning starters of seven.
"Maybe that'll turn them around," Bohlender said. "It's a big win. There's no doubt these are two of the best teams in the (Stanislaus District)."
Still, Pitman had a chance to win in the closing minutes. It took the ball down the left side of the pool, but a pass inside to Sutterley -- who had problems getting the ball in the second half -- was stolen by Brooke Fuller.
After a timeout, the play developed on the left side, where Andie Plunkett passed inside to McGee, who was being guarded by Megan Bohlender, Brent's daughter.
"I felt her go over my shoulder when I got the ball," McGee said. "I turned and there it was."
She had a point-blank shot, which she fired into the net for the win. Johansen remains undefeated against Pitman.
"We looked at this game like it was very important," McGee said. "They've got a great team."
The victory left the Pride hoping to meet the Vikings again.
"Maybe we'll run into them at the Western States (Johansen's big girls tournament) or in the playoffs," Cornell said. "We did a lot of good things today and we found we have some things to work on. Hopefully we'll keep getting better."
Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.