Stevenson senior center Jacob Whiting was coming off surgery to repair a meniscus tear.
Lyons senior utility Jack Bradbury went on a scoring tear — as in nine goals.
Behold two of the riveting storylines in Saturday afternoon’s third-place boys water polo game at the state finals at Stevenson.
Lyons edged the host Patriots 12-11 in triple overtime, after leading 8-4 in the final minute of the third quarter and trailing 10-9 after the first OT in Lincolnshire.
Stevenson struck for two goals in the final 1:27 of regulation to force extra time.
“We had high expectations, as always,” said Stevenson coach Sean Wimer, whose program captured a state title in 2017 and won another when it topped Lyons 15-8 in the 2021 final to cap a 30-0 season. “We fell short today. It hurts. But we didn’t fold after falling behind late and played our best game of the season.
“I’m beyond impressed.”
Bradbury’s feat Saturday, as Lyons defeated Stevenson for the fourth time in as many games this spring? Beyond comprehension, to many. The Cal Lutheran recruit poured in the Lions’ first five goals and four of their last six, including the clincher — a zippy skip shot — at the 2:01 mark of the third OT.
“Happy memories,” Bradbury (125 goals in ‘22) said of Lyons’ 30-3 season. “Lots of them. But I’m also sad, because it’s over. These past four years were the best ones of my life.”
Whiting’s past several months were part harrowing, part stirring. He tore a meniscus knee ligament in a wrestling practice the week of regionals but still grappled at the postseason meet and ended up winning a sectional title — after stunning the reigning state champ at 195 pounds.
He underwent surgery in late February and didn’t enter a pool for his first water polo practice until May 9.
Whiting scored 2 goals, including the one that cut Lyons’ lead to 9-8, in the third-place game Saturday. His entry pass preceded senior attacker Angelos Koutsogeorgas’ tally that knotted it at 11 with 22 seconds left in the first OT.
“Best athlete I’ve ever coached,” Wimer said of Whiting, a Pomona-Pitzer (Calif.) polo recruit.
Koutsogeorgas paced Stevenson (23-11) with 4 goals. Junior Kunal Rajadhyax (game-high 3 assists) and sophomore Olin Kusevskis netted 2 apiece, and senior attackman Sullivan Swanson scored 1.
Pats Armaan Gill (4 saves) and Mark Younan (7) shared time in goal.
Lyons sophomore goalie Charlie Vik (11 saves) played superbly, particularly during a 15-second span in the third frame when he stopped a 5-meter penalty shot and then soared to make another save.
The efforts preserved a 7-4 lead.
“Amazing game,” said Lions coach Doug Eichstaedt, who got two goals from senior attackman Jimmy Bolan and 1 from senior attackman Matt Jablonski. “We kept making plays, and Jack put the team on his back. It’s tough playing for third place after losing a semi earlier in the day.
“But we talked. We reminded them that there’s only one way to play every game — give your best.”
Lyons fell 9-6 to New Trier in a semifinal Saturday; Stevenson lost 7-4 to Young in the other semi.
New Trier defeated Young 13-11 Saturday night for its first state championship in program history.