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Jensen Beach trips up Tigers

Published Mar. 1, 2006

"We thought we had them," Gillman said.

That was hardly the case.

Down the stretch, the Falcons scored twice in the final 13 minutes to rally for a 4-3 victory at Lockhart Stadium as Jesuit's first final four appearance since 2001 ended in heartbreak. The winner came off the foot of Jerry Balzer in the 78th minute.

"They didn't quit," Jesuit coach Bob Bauman said of Jensen Beach. "Every time we got a goal, they came right back at us."

No previous Jesuit opponent had scored more than three goals, making the Tigers' late-game defensive lapse all the more improbable.

In 29 previous outings, the Tigers (24-5-1) allowed a combined 16 goals while pitching 21 shutouts. Jensen Beach (21-2), in its first final four appearance, was outshot 19-11 but simply made the most of its scoring opportunities.

"I think we played better and had the ball more, but we just gave up a couple of bad shots," Bauman said.

Jesuit was seeking its seventh state championship, but fell behind 1-0 in the 14th minute on the first of three Kyle Conrad goals.

The Tigers rallied to tie on a penalty kick by midfielder Santi Alexis 19 minutes later, then Alexis struck again on another penalty kick with 42 seconds left in the half.

"We felt then that the momentum had swung," Alexis said.

Jensen Beach made it 2-all eight minutes into the second half, but Jesuit again surged ahead, this time on Gillman's score, which came on an assist from Alexis.

"The feeling I picked up from the team was that we could go out and put more goals in," Gillman said.

After Jensen Beach took the lead for good, Jesuit had a few late scoring chances, but its best effort was a shot that sailed well high of the net. When the game ended, Jensen Beach players and a Falcons following of about 100 went wild while many Tigers fought back tears.

"Obviously, this is not what we wanted," Gillman said. "But the result is not what's most important. We learned a lot this year and grew as a team."