After being only a couple points away from defeat, the Thoroughbreds got the match tiebreaker they needed with help from the smallest player on the courts: eighth-grader Jonny Bowman, who is 4-foot-10 "on a good day," joked his coach, Rakesh Jasani.
Bowman, the No. 5 singles player, rebounded to win his match and the Thoroughbreds then won a tiebreaking doubles match to beat rival Aiken, 4-3, on Tuesday evening at the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center to advance to the semifinals of the Class AAAA state playoffs.
South Aiken will travel to play Lexington, another region foe, on Thursday for the Lower State title. The teams split the two previous meetings this season.
On Tuesday, Bowman lost the first set and was down 5-4 in the second with South Aiken needing a win to stay alive. Behind good ball placement, Bowman rallied and later won a tiebreaker, 10-4.
"Unbelievable," Jasani said about Bowman. "He's lost four tough matches in third-set tiebreakers this season. He's the smallest kid out there, but he has the heart of a lion."
Jordan Dingle (No. 2 singles) and Zach Glance (No. 3 singles) also won their matches for South Aiken.
With Aiken's John Boone winning in No. 1 singles, Neal Patel victorious in No. 4 singles and McLeod Barber and Andy Wykel teaming to win their doubles match, the two sides were tied at 3.
Needing a tiebreaker to decide the victor, South Aiken brothers Jonathan and Jordan Dingle won their doubles match -- the fourth time this season the Thoroughbreds won such a match -- in straight sets over Boone and Alex Poda, 7-5, 6-2.
"It's fun," Jonathan Dingle, a senior, said about winning the match with his brother, a freshman. "We've been playing together for a long time. He's one of my best friends."
It might have been the third loss to South Aiken, but the Hornets were close in all three meetings, and things were almost different Tuesday.
Aiken picked up wins at No. 4 singles and in doubles for the first time this season against South Aiken.
As for the doubles match, Barber and Wykel won a 10-7 tiebreaker as the Hornets put the Thoroughbreds in a hole.
However, South Aiken's Jordan Dingle won 6-4, 6-4 against Justin Payton, who was fighting cramps, and Glance won 6-3, 6-2.
South Aiken still needed another win to force a decisive doubles match, and it got it at No. 5 singles. It might have been a disappointing end for Aiken, but Hornets coach Steve Smith is already looking ahead.
"Everyone is back -- we're excited," Smith said about next season. "This was great. I'm very proud of my guys."