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KENLY — With the score tied at 4, all eyes turned to the second doubles court in Wednesday’s North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2-A boys tennis dual-team first-round playoff match between host North Johnston and Richlands.
Richland’s Dylan Stiles-Mico Quijano rallied from a 4-3 deficit to move within match point at 7-4 against North Johnston’s Hunter Jones-Brandon Peedin. The Panthers duo rallied to win one more point, but Stiles-Quijano took the next point to win, 8-5, and finish the 5-4 victory.
“We were a little off today and it took us a little while to catch up and get going,” said North Johnston head coach David Anderson, whose team dropped a 5-4 decision for the fourth time this season. “I just think we didn’t have enough time to catch up there at the end.”
The Panthers, champions of the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference, finished the season 12-8, including a perfect 8-0 in league play. The Wildcats (9-3), a wild-card entry from the 1-A/2-A Coastal 8 Conference, will head to Snow Hill to play Greene Central (17-1), a winner over Whiteville on Wednesday, in the second round Tuesday, May 7.
Just as they had all season, the Panthers got a big contribution from the bottom half of their lineup of Graham Walston, Brandon Peedin and Carsse Lucas as they won all four points for the Panthers. Peedin and Lucas won their singles matches at Nos. 5 and 6, respectively, in straight sets while Walston won in a third-set tiebreaker at No. 4. Walston-Lucas won its No. 3 doubles match 8-2 over Jordan Roed-Tucker Ramsey.
“They were huge all year, especially against Nash Central that was our big rival in the conference,” Anderson said. “They stepped it up and won a lot of matches for us. Every school has a decent tennis player at one, two, and/or three, and our top guys had to play the best and I’m proud of their effort.”
Michael Barnes-Scott Sellers had the closest match at No. 1 doubles, falling 8-6 to Richlands’ Alex Blanchong-Carson Schmitt.
The Panthers will bring back four of their top players in Lucas, Walston, Sellers and Hunter Jones, who are all juniors, but Anderson said the senior leadership of No. 1 player Barnes and the consistency of Peedin will be missed.
“We have a great nucleus coming back,” Anderson said. “I’m hoping to get some middle schoolers coming up and maybe get some more underclassmen and continue to build this program because I think good things are happening here for tennis.”
RICHLANDS 5, North johnston 4
Alex Blanchong (R) def. Michael Barnes 6-4, 6-1; Carson Schmitt (R) def. Hunter Jones 6-3, 6-0; Dylan Stiles (R) def. Scott Sellers 6-2, 6-4; Graham Walston (NJ) def. Jordan Roed 6-3, 6-2, 9-6; Brandon Peedin (NJ) def. Mico Quijano 6-3, 6-1; Carsse Lucas (NJ) def. Tucker Ramsey 7-5, 6-4.
Blanchong-Schmitt (R) def. Barnes-Sellers 8-6; Stiles-Quijano def. Jones-Peedin (NJ) 8-5; Walston-Lucas (NJ) def. Roed-Ramsey 8-2.