Bellevue senior Mario Abdel Shahed, right, puts pressure on Curtis sophomore Jorge Melendez, right, during the state championship game. Curtis defeated Bellevue 11-6 on Nov. 12 at the Curtis Aquatic Center in University Place. Photo courtesy of Bob Averill

Wolverines capture second place at state tournament

A battle between the two top boys water polo programs in Washington lived up to expectations in the Puget Sound water polo state championship game featuring the Curtis Vikings and Bellevue Wolverines.

The teams were deadlocked in a 4-4 tie at halftime but Curtis outscored Bellevue 7-2 in the final 14 minutes of play, cruising to a 11-6 victory on Nov. 12 at the Curtis Aquatic Center in University Place. The Vikings finished the 2016 season with a perfect 33-0 record. Curtis head coach Dennis Piccolotto said hard work and dedication led to his team’s proficiency in the third and fourth period of play.

“We condition so hard. We swim and we tread (water) a lot. That is something we do for a good hour of practice each day. We strongly believe we are a second half team,” Piccolotto said. “Our strategy was to keep it close. We knew if we could be up by one or two or down by one or two going into the second half, we were going to really be able to let it rip. That is what we did tonight.”

With the Wolverines trailing 7-5, Curtis player Sam Abbott scored a goal with just 11 seconds left in the third quarter extending the Curtis lead to 8-5. Abbott scored another goal with six minutes left in regulation, giving Curtis a commanding 9-5 advantage.

Bellevue junior Jack Witham scored a team-high two goals for his team in the loss. Mario Abdel Shahed, Nick Cvitkovic, Cameron Hayes and Jesse Hainze recorded one goal apiece in the contest for the Wolverines. Bellevue head coach Ed Brovick, who removed his starters from the game with 1:33 left in the regulation as a sign of respect to his team and Curtis, was proud of his squad despite the defeat in the season finale.

“I wouldn’t want to go to battle with any other group of guys,” Brovick said of his team. “They worked all season and sometimes you get to experience the agony of defeat unfortunately. How our team responded is what defines our character, not the win or the loss.”

Piccolotto said his team always looks forward to its matchups against the Wolverines.

“It is a friendly rivalry built off respect. We knew in the end (title game) those guys were going to be there. They won four (titles) in a row and this is our second in a row now. They are still the program to beat,” Piccolotto said of Bellevue. “We are still working hard to stick with those guys for sure.”

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