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Gaither, Jesuit win, set up Puma championship dual

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© St. Petersburg Times, published December 22, 2000

TAMPA -- Two second-half goals by Bryce Wegerle kept Gaither's hopes of a No. 1 national ranking alive as the Cowboys beat Temecula Valley (Calif.) 2-1 in the Puma International on Thursday.

The Cowboys face Jesuit in the title game at 4 p.m. today at the University of South Florida. Currently ranked No. 5 in the adidas national poll, Cowboys coach Adrian Bush believes a victory today would push his team to No. 1.

Momentum flowed back and forth until Temecula's Brock Trejo scored in the 24th minute off of a pass from Matt Weeks. The Bears kept the control for the rest of the half, but the Cowboys' defense held Temecula to four shots.

Early in the second half, the Cowboys took control as Wegerle scored his first of two goals to tie it. Gaither dominated the rest of the game, testing Bears goalkeeper Andrew Mitchell with 11 shots.

And with five minutes left, Wegerle broke down the field, dodging defenders and bringing Mitchell out of the box. He went around Mitchell, and before the goalie could get in position, his shot found the back of the net.

"They played a great game," Gaither coach Adrian Bush said. "(Today), we have the opportunity to be the No. 1 team in the country."

But the Cowboys must get past Jesuit, which defeated Lake Mary 3-1. With the game tied at 1, Tigers forward Justin Estrada dribbled upfield and put the ball in the left corner of the goal. Sean Sullivan put the game away with a goal in the 75th minute.

"It was a blessing," Estrada said. "I capitalized on an opportunity you just don't get too often."

Estrada said today's game will be a challenge for the Tigers.

"They're definitely a good team," Estrada said.

"We just have to go out there and play like we've been playing in this tournament."

Earlier Thursday, Jesuit defeated Bellarmine Park (Calif.) 3-1 while Gaither shut out Brandon 5-0. Brandon then beat Clearwater Central Catholic 2-0 in the consolation bracket.

Bloomingdale beat Oviedo 5-1, and King bowed out of the tournament with a 2-0 loss to Houston Strake Jesuit.

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