garces water polo

The Garces boys water polo team celebrates after winning the Central Section Division II championship in a 16-10 win over Porterville-Monache on Thursday.

Teddy Feinberg / The Californian

Garces believed they were the better team entering Thursday’s Division II Central Section water polo championship against Porterville-Monache.

But the Rams had to prove it in the pool.

The two teams had played three times this year, with Monache winning twice — an 11-10 defeat during a preseason tournament, followed by a split in league play.

The two teams squared off again Thursday, this time with the Section title on the line, and this time it was the Rams who came out victorious 16-10.

Players and coaches held a long celebration outside the pool following the match, sharing hugs and high fives.

“It feels amazing,” said junior two meter Grayden Reynolds. “A lot of work went into it. Three hour practices, six days a week. But hey, it paid off in the end.”

Head coach Jason Gall said he wouldn’t have been surprised if the Rams were actually the No. 2 seed entering the tournament. Despite their losing record to Monache, Garces finished with a better overall record and entered the Section tournament as the No. 1-ranked team. The Marauders, in turn, were the No. 2 seed in tournament play.

Still, Gall said either way he felt as if the Rams would win if they played to their potential.

“In my heart, I felt like we were the better team,” Gall said. “We just didn’t play well against them this year.”

That is, until Thursday. Garces led 5-3 after the first quarter, 9-5 at halftime, and 11-8 entering the fourth.

Reynolds led the way with a team-high eight goals. The imposing junior, who used to attend Liberty High School before going to Garces this year, camps in front of the net and either scores, or draws attention so his fellow Rams can cash in.

“He can put it away with two or three guys on him,” said senior utility attacker Lee Begin. “He’s a big help, obviously. We were just clicking on all cylinders today.”

Begin added two goals and three assists. Joe Starr had three goals while Eric Klang added three of his own.

“In my opinion, we were the better team,” Begin said. “But we didn’t prove it yet. We did, tonight.”

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