The ball soon reached the net, but it didn’t slip over. It landed on the side South Aiken hoped it would.
The outcome finally decided, winner Preston Tiffany had just finished shaking hands with his competitor Grayson Hill when a wave of yellow swept its way toward him.
The South Aiken boys tennis team won three tiebreakers, including two third-set ones, to beat Lexington, 4-2, Thursday at the H. Odell Weeks Tennis Center in the Class AAAA Lower State championship. The Thoroughbreds now head to Cayce for the state championship on Saturday.
“We play these guys 20 times, it’s going to be 10-10,” South Aiken coach Rakesh Jasani said. “This team’s special. I’ve had a special feeling about this bunch since Day 1.”
Tiffany won his third-set tiebreaker after battling in the first two sets to 3-6, 6-3.
South Aiken (18-1) also won crucial tiebreakers from Petar Zotovic and the doubles team of Zach Thatcher and Marco Zotovic. Petar Zotovic won 6-1, 7-6 (8-6).
The Thoroughbreds rallied when the doubles started. After a setback in the opening set, South Aiken rode the building crowd support to a 6-2 win.
In the tiebreaker, Lexington’s Will Horton and Nikil Sairam made more mistakes, with some returns hitting the net. But Thatcher and Marco Zotovic flashed impressive hits, earning one point when a shot cut low on an angle and made a return near impossible.
Though the Wildcats’ Logan Adkins and Thomas Bryan picked up victories, Lexington (18-3) didn’t get another.
South Aiken’s Jonny Bowman was the first one to finish his match, cruising to a 6-0, 6-2 win over Byron Byars.
Bowman was in control and rarely forced to hurry his shot. He wore down Byars and then showed his power with a late ace that jump-started the Thoroughbreds’ win.
“I’m proud of the journey to get here,” Wildcats coach Eric Jackson said. “I knew this match would be a dogfight.”