05/23/08 — Firebirds end Golden Falcons' playoff run

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Firebirds end Golden Falcons' playoff run

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 23, 2008 4:14 PM

PIKEVILLE -- It's hard to stop a team of destiny.

But Charles B. Aycock nearly derailed No. 1-ranked Southern Nash in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A dual-team eastern regional final on Thursday afternoon. The Firebirds prevailed in two of four super-set tiebreakers and pulled out a 5-2 decision on the Golden Falcons' courts.

Southern Nash (26-0 overall) will face perennial power Charlotte Catholic for the state title on Saturday.

Aycock finished the year 21-3 with all losses coming against Southern Nash.

"(The approach) is the same as the other two times we played them, but this is bigger and plays with your mind a little bit," said Firebirds senior Kyle Ramsey. "You just have to stay focused. We came over here with the same plan we had the other two times.

"We just decided to make it interesting today."

The Firebirds claimed four tiebreakers in grueling semifinal-round win 24 hours earlier against state-ranked Western Alamance. Ramsey conceded he and his teammates did experience fatigue, but concentrated on completing their season-long task.

Southern Nash became the first team east of I-95 to advance to the dual-team 3-A finals since the NCHSAA adopted the playoff system in 1990.

"We beat C.B. Aycock twice during the season and everybody kept saying 'oh, you'll have an easy time with them,' but they didn't see those matches," said Firebirds coach Brad Joyner. "Coming over here today with the state (berth) at stake, you knew these guys were going to go at it and they did.

"We were just lucky enough to pull out enough to make it happen for us."

The Firebirds entered the regional final victorious in 11 of 12 super-set tiebreakers during the postseason. They added two more in the warm, breezy conditions and denied Aycock it's first-ever trip to the state championship.

Third-seeded Nicolas Finet rallied from an opening-set loss to defeat Golden Falcon senior Blake Cooper 3-6, 6-2, 10-4. Sixth-seeded Cody Brandt seized a 6-0 lead in his third-set, super tiebreaker and turned back Dylan Quinn 6-1, 4-6, 10-4.

"(Winning tiebreakers) comes down to having five seniors and that really counts a lot when you're in tight spots," said Joyner. "It's just a matter of trying to push their little buttons and for them to figure out how to push their own buttons."

Ramsey emerged one of two Firebirds to not need a tiebreaker against the No. 6-ranked Golden Falcons. He defeated Ben Evans 6-2, 6-0, while teammate Isaac Arnold upended Ben Nichols 6-2, 6-1.

Sophomores Blake Vail and Addison Westbrook accounted for Aycock's singles points. Blake picked up his 62nd career win with a come-from-behind 4-6, 6-2, 10-8 victory over Michael Barnes. Westbrook rebounded from a second-set loss to defeat Ethan Page 6-1, 2-6, 10-7.

"I was hoping for a 4-2 split in singles," said Aycock coach Kevin Coghill. "I knew it would be a very tall order going in (doubles) down 4-2. We had to get it to 3-3 and had a chance with the two tiebreakers that we lost.

"That was tough."

The Firebirds' No. 3 tandem of Ramsey-Jordan Hagler secured the outcome with a 10-5 conquest of Evans-Quinn.

"I'm not disappointed in the effort at all," said Coghill. "Our boys had a lot of heart today. I really believe it could have gone either way in singles. Just have that kind of opportunity with these guys ... it's been a real special year."

2008 N.C. High School

Athletic Association

Class 3-A Dual-Team

Eastern Championship

(at C.B. Aycock HS, Pikeville)

(1) Southern Nash 5

(6) C.B. Aycock 2

Singles: No. 1 Blake Vail (CBA) d. Michael Barnes 4-6, 6-2, 10-8; No. 2 Addison Westbrook (CBA) d. Ethan Page 6-1, 2-6, 10-7; No. 3 Nicolas Finet (SN) d. Blake Cooper 3-6, 6-2, 10-4; No. 4 Kyle Ramsey (SN) d. Ben Evans 6-2, 6-0; No. 5 Isaac Arnold (SN) d. Ben Nichols 6-2, 6-1; No. 6 Cody Brandt (SN) d. Dylan Quinn 6-1, 4-6, 10-4.

Doubles: No. 3 Ramsey-Hagler (SN) d. Evans-Quinn 10-5.

Records: C.B. Aycock 21-3, Southern Nash 26-0.