Providence Grove senior Timothy Wood did his best to turn the match in his team’s favor Monday afternoon in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A dual tennis eastern regional semifinals, winning a two-and-a-half-hour battled with North Johnston’s Trey Motley at No. 1 singles.
Wood was a game away from falling, but rallied to tie the match entering doubles play.
North Johnston (18-4) wouldn’t cooperate, though.
The Panthers took two of three doubles matches and moved into the eastern regional championship match on Wednesday with a 5-4 victory over Providence Grove.
“It was a very intense and exciting match,” said North Johnston coach David Anderson. “I was extremely proud of the effort my guys put forth. They were cheering each other on, and they left everything on the court. We are all excited about making it to the Eastern Regional Championship.
“The guys are all about rewriting North Johnston High School tennis history with each round we advance.”
The Patriots did grab a 4-3 lead when Nicolas Swaim and Cameron Clark won at No. 3 doubles, 10-4, but North’s tandem of Ian Walston and Motley roared back to roll to a 10-2 victory at No. 2 singles, evening the match.
Walston and Motley’s triumph saw both North entries overcome challenges. Walston, who beat Mason Nance, 6-2, 6-2, in singles, had the longest layoff between singles and doubles play, waiting more than two hours between his matches. But the Eastern Plains 2A Conference singles champion was stellar when he went back to the court.
Motley had led Wood 5-2 in the second set and battled through 11 deuce points at 5-2 before dropping that game, then three more before falling in a second set tiebreaker, 7-2. Motley took the 10-point tiebreaker to decide the match as well, for a 6-7 (6-8), 7-6 (7-2), 10-3 victory.
But the North junior returned quickly to the court to play with Walston, shaking off leg cramps at one point to battle through with the verdict basically decided. (The North duo led 7-1 at one point.) He found a way through, avoiding the dreaded mustard gulp to fight the cramps in the process.
Meanwhile, North’s No. 1 doubles tandem of Tyler Jackson and Jonathan Gonzalez were slowly taking control of their match with Wood and Dylan Thompson of Providence Grove. Up 4-3, the Panther pairing got a break of serve to take control of the match and send the Panthers further than any Johnston County tennis team has been since 2004 (when Clayton made the 3A regional final).
The regional championship match against N.C. School of Science and Math is expected to be Wednesday.
North’s Jackson (6-3, 6-4 over Thompson) and Gonzalez (6-1, 6-2 over Nicholas Swain) also earned singles victories on Monday. Providence Grove’s singles wins came from Cameron Clark (6-2, 6-4 over Hunter Moore) and Zachary Greeson (6-4, 7-6 (7-5)) over Jeremiah Coley.