Through a 13-hour day at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Cone-Kenfield Tennis Facility, there was a difference in atmospheres during the N.C. High School Athletic Association boys team tennis championships.
The 1A championships between Raleigh Charter and Pine Lake Prep was breakfast at Wimbledon, with compliments given to both sides by opposing fans.
The 4A nightcap between Panther Creek and Greensboro’s Page High was the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows with Jimmy Connors playing the audience like a piano.
The singles finale between Page’s Michael Bass and Panther Creek’s Donovan Lilov was played in front of dueling player-initiated chants, with Bass living and dying with every point.
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Page (18-0) captured its third 4A state championship, defeating Panther Creek 5-2. The Pirates’ doubles team of Hardy Brown and Charlie Snipes defeated the Catamounts’ Alex Kim and Lilov 10-4 to clinch their first championship since 2001.
Panther Creek, whose girls’ tennis team has won three consecutive 4A championships, ends the year 21-1.
“We had opportunities on a couple of courts to turn a match a different way,” said Panther Creek coach Nathaniel Blalock. “In part, we didn’t execute tonight in a few areas of the game. We weren’t as creative in our lineup. A little more creativity in the lineup would have gone a long way.”
The Bass/Lilov duel was the match of the day and set the tone for the rest of the night.
Bass won 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (8-6) in a battle where Lilov broke service twice in the final set to force a tiebreaker. Bass, flexing his muscles after winning, captured the final four points of the tiebreaker to win the match and send Page into doubles ahead 4-2.
Bass was named tournament MVP.
“I get emotional every single Page match there is,” said Bass, a senior. “I love my team. My team is amazing. It’s emotional every single time we play a Page match.”
Page captured the first two singles matches. It started when Mason Kolls defeated Sidd Pal 6-1, 6-1. Charlie Snipes followed with a 6-3, 6-2 decision over Panther Creek’s Nadir Bajwa.
Panther Creek pulled even in unfortunate fashion. Page’s Henry Enochs collapsed while serving for the match against the Catamounts’ Aditya Kakkar. Enochs suffered full body cramping and was left lying on the court screaming in pain. He was forced to retire and taken to UNC Hospitals, where he was treated.
“That was a dogfight of a tennis match,” said Page coach Robert Hogewood. “I told Henry to give it everything he had. He did, and in the end he just couldn’t go anymore. A full body cramp took over. I just told him I was proud of him and we were going to win it for him.”
The Catamounts got a singles victory from Trice Pickens, who defeated Hardy Brown 6-4, 6-2, which evened the overall match 2-2.
Page pulled back ahead when Jack Oldis won over Alex Kim 6-4, 7-5.