Spring Creek will play for Class 1-A dual-team title
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 25, 2005 1:47 PM
FARMVILLE -- Spring Creek turned its third chance at a regional men's dual-team tennis title into gold Tuesday afternoon.
Senior Ricky Galloway delivered a match-clinching forehand smash at the net and the Gators seized their first-ever N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A eastern championship on the Farmville Central courts.
Spring Creek had lost to Durham School of the Arts in the last two regional finals. The Gators became the first Carolina Conference team to compete for a men's dual-team state title. Veteran coach Robert Jones guided the Gators' women's team to a runner-up spot in 2003 against Siler City Jordan Matthews.
"It's pleasing for the seniors and some of the juniors; mainly for the three seniors and Cliff (Wilson) who have been there the last two or three years," Jones said of the 5-1 victory. "They've overcome the toughness of making that (regional) final and not being able to get over the top."
A year ago, Galloway stumbled in a tiebreaker situation that allowed DSA to claim its third consecutive regional title. Although he struggled against the Jaguars' pesky James Newsome, Galloway converted the key points -- especially in the tiebreaker.
Newsome rallied from a 4-1 deficit to take a 6-5 lead in the second set. Galloway held serve to force the tiebreaker and quickly raced to a 4-0 lead. He hit a crosscourt winner down the line, dropped a winner to the deep right corner and added a monster putaway at the net.
However, Galloway couldn't keep the momentum. The players battled against a swirling wind and Newsome climbed within 5-4, including benefiting from a wind-aided ball that floated just inside the baseline corner. But Newsome mishit a forehand to fall behind 6-4.
The players traded volleys on Galloway's serve before Newsome lofted a short ball just over the net. Galloway charged the net and connected on a smash that sailed over Newsome's outstretched racquet.
"Mentally, Ricky had to stick with it a little bit longer and keep the ball in play," Jones said of Galloway's second-set effort. "Newsome finally mishit a few balls there at the end. Being in that situation before made a difference, I think, for Ricky. He responded well, even though he got a little tight.
"He went back to some things he did well at the beginning of the match. He was patient at the baseline and picked his spots to come into the net."
James Potts went back to basics against third-seeded Matt Howard.
After rolling through the first set 6-1, Potts drifted into a 3-0 hole in the second set. Howard played consistent on each point and capitalized when Potts made a mistake.
Potts trailed 4-2 before winning four straight games and the match 6-1, 6-4.
"James started making the easy play and I think that guy crumbled a little bit at the end," Jones said. "For those guys to go out there, put their foot down and step up ... that just goes to show the kind of heart Ricky and James have displayed over the last two weeks."
Brandon Strickland, the Gators' No. 5 seed, started the ball rolling with a 6-3, 6-1 conquest of Charlie Grey. Fourth-seeded Phat Tran followed suit with a 6-2, 6-3 decision against David Newton. In their previous meeting against the Jaguars, Strickland and Tran were the last players to leave the court.
"They really went out there and did what I told them to do," Jones said. "They made it look real easy. I told them to put pressure on the backhand shot, approach the net and see if they can pass you with the backhand. They just couldn't do it.
"Most of the time, when you play people at the bottom, they're used to pushing the ball and content with sitting on the baseline. Very rarely do you see anyone come into the net. Brandon and Phat have been real solid and I was pretty confident in their ability to keep enough balls in play."
Wilson, a junior, captured Spring Creek's third singles win 6-0, 6-4 against Ben Adams.
Adams tied the second set at 4-all before Wilson hit a deep forehand winner to go ahead 5-4. Wilson gained two break points on Adams' serve in the next game and lost one when a forehand return clipped the net.
Adams attempted to force a deuce point when he charged the net after a chip volley, but Wilson closed out the match with a backhand winner down the line.
The Jaguars (14-6) picked up their lone win at No. 6 singles. Toko Janashvili outlasted Frederick Ellis 6-2, 7-6 (2).
Nearly a month ago, Spring Creek barely registered a blip on the playoff radar. But a season-ending victory against Farmville Central renewed the Gators' hopes. The four-point triumph set up a winner-take-all showdown against archrival Rosewood for the league's second playoff spot. Since then, Spring Creek (14-7) has prevailed in four consecutive matches.
"Since that match we played Farmville at home, it's been a do-or-die situation," Jones said. "We adopted the motto 'take one match at a time' and we're still playing. It's rewarding to get over the hump finally with these guys and they deserve it.
"We have found a way to get it done."
Spring Creek faces either Mt. Airy or defending state champion Elkin in the finals either Friday afternoon or Saturday. Jones said graduation ceremonies are planned for Saturday at 11 a.m. at Mount Olive College.
Notes: The Gators' all-time dual-team playoff record is 4-3. ... Carolina Conference teams are 1-4 in regional finals -- Spring Creek (1-2), Rosewood (0-1) and Farmville Central (0-1).
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