By MICHAEL ALEXANDER, Staff Photographer | Published October 17, 2014
CUMMING—St. Pius X was one of four semi-final teams competing for the 2014 Georgia High School Water Polo Association (GHSWPA) state championship at the Cumming Aquatic Center, Oct. 10-12.
St. Pius took on Wesleyan in its first match, Oct. 11, which resulted in a 19-4 victory. With a tenacious defense, they held Wesleyan to two goals in the first seven-minute quarter and allowed two more scores in the last three minutes of the fourth quarter. Junior Perry Brandes led the team with six goals, followed by sophomore Jordan Chatfield’s four goals. With a balanced attack from its field players, six other players scored one or two goals.
In the subsequent game that evening, the St. Pius Golden Lions defeated Greater Atlanta Christian 9-2 to advance to the semifinal match, Oct. 12, against the Norcross Blue Devils. It was a rematch of the 2013 championship, when St. Pius finished as the state runner-up to Norcross in a 7-5 loss.
Even though it was a semi-final match, the match had all the intensity of the finals. St. Pius senior J.R. Kennedy scored the first goal 1:14 into the match. Then Norcross scored three consecutive goals to take a 4-1 lead. Kennedy scored two straight goals of his own to bring Pius to within one goal at the end of the first quarter.
Chatfield scored the first goal of the second quarter to bring St. Pius even with Norcross. Only five goals were scored between the two teams in the second quarter, which ended with Norcross holding a 7-6 lead.
With 4:13 left in the third quarter, Norcross held a two-point lead, 9-7. Kennedy and Brandes scored back-to-back goals for St. Pius to knot the match up at 9 all. With 1:05 remaining in the third quarter, senior Jack King scored the go-ahead goal to give St. Pius a 10-9 lead when the third quarter expired.
Kennedy, Brandes and Chatfield each added a goal in the fourth quarter. Norcross added four goals of their own, and at the end of regulation the two teams were tied at 13 apiece. The teams played two three-minute overtime periods, which also ended in a 14-14 tie; therefore, they went to a three-minute sudden death period—the first team to score would win. Norcross won the sprint for ball, set up a play, and Norcross junior Eric Strickland scored the winning goal.
Norcross defeated Collins Hill High School 14-7 in the finals to repeat as state champions. St. Pius defeated Southern Crescent 12-6 in the third-place match.
St. Pius’ Brandes was named Division 1 Defensive Player of the Year. He was also selected to the first team All-GHSWPA Division 1 team. St. Pius sophomore goalie Andres Garcia was also one of seven players selected to the second team All-GHSWPA Division 1 team.