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In an exciting final, Gonzaga HS held off a furious Jesuit comeback to win the boys High School NIT single-school bracket 27-26 Saturday in Elkhart, Ind.
Gonzaga were paced by the excellent goalkicking of Ben Cima, and two tries from center Michael Barry, the Air Force Academy-bound midfielder who had a lights-out game at a critical moment.
Jesuit scored early when a Gonzaga player though he could just throw the ball into touch. That's a penalty, and from that penalty Jesuit bulled over for a 7-0 lead.
But after that it was all Gonzaga, as the DC team marched to a 27-7 lead. Key for them was the Gonzaga backline holding Jesuit's Zach Tavenner in check at least a little bit.
"We like to play a wide, fast game," said Jesuit Head Coach John Shorey before the game. "Gonzaga is sort of a mirror image of us; they are very physical, they execute their pattern, move the ball well, and have an excellent #10. It could come down to one or two small mistakes."
Up by 20 Gonzaga seemed to relax a little.
"This is why they are the standard-bearer; the best program in the country," said Gonzaga Coach Peter Baggetta. "They came right back the minute we left an opening. They didn't stop competing."
Jesuit score three tries late to make it 27-26, but the last try was as time expired, and it wasn't quite enough.
"This is huge for everyone," said Baggetta. "This is the first championship for the school in this sport in 26 years. It's big for the players, the school, and the alumni. This rivalry against Jesuit has helped us, it has made us better."
Leading the way for Gonzaga was the magnificent Cima, whose ability to get points was crucial for his team, and the Gonzaga forward pack, which was better in the scrums and lineout, and did that after a punishing semi against Penn, where they were superb.
Penn defeated Xavier for 3rd, while Notre Dame de la Salette, which almost came back to beat Gonzaga in the quarters, won the consolation bracket and finished 5th. Greenwich took 6th.