Last season, Miami Belen Jesuit knocked off Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas to win the boys’ water polo state championship.
On Saturday, the Wolverines rallied from a halftime deficit to win their second consecutive state title, defeating the Raiders 10-7 at Ransom Everglades.
Belen quickly turned a 4-3 halftime deficit into a 6-4 third-quarter lead, and every time St. Thomas threatened after that, Federico Tamobrrel had an answer.
“Federico is the best horse in the state,” Belen coach Jimmy Aguilera said of the junior who scored the Wolverines’ last four goals. “In the second quarter he was very nervous, but then he loosened up.”
Said Tamborrel of the first half: “I was in a mental block and I couldn’t seem to figure anything out. I looked down and realized … if I don’t get my act together, then we’re not going to be able to win this.”
Tamborrel got his act together just in time, scoring two goals to give the Wolverines a game-high, three-goal lead at 8-5. Goals by freshman Jacob Harkins and junior James Burnette brought the Raiders back within one, but Tamborrel took over, scoring two goals late in the fourth quarter to provide the final margin.
Belen never led in the first half, and the Wolverines trailed 4-3 at the half after St. Thomas’ Robert Schulte scored with one second remaining in the second quarter. In addition to the deficit on the scoreboard, Belen entered the second half down a coach after assistant Lazaro Fernandez-Bueno received a red card 30 seconds before halftime.
“I asked for the kids to get together,” Aguilera said. “They’ve been through a lot throughout the season … therefore, they worked together.”
Senior Adrian Hernandez scored four goals for Belen Jesuit, and Tamborrel matched him with his four second-half tallies. Tamborrel’s older brother Nicolas and Friday’s hero Pablo Kurzan also scored for the Wolverines, with Kurzan’s goal tying the score at 4 early in the third quarter before Hernandez gave Belen the lead for good moments later.
Burnette and junior Parker Strickman led the Raiders with two goals each.
Saturday’s game was St. Thomas Aquinas’ fifth consecutive state title game, and it marked the fourth consecutive year that the Raiders have faced Belen in the boys’ water polo state tournament.
St. Thomas coach Michael Goldenberg said the future is bright for his team, which started three freshmen in the championship game.
“Now they know what it takes to get here and what it takes to win this,” Goldenberg said. “The new season begins tomorrow. We’re in good shape.”
Although Goldenberg says the Raiders are in good shape, Tamborrel and the Wolverines won’t give up their crown without a fight.
“I’m excited for next season,” Tamborrel said. “Back-to-back, that’s just the beginning. We’re forming a dynasty.”