TEMPLE TERRACE — For the third straight year, the King High’s boys tennis team will play in the state tournament.
The Lions defeated Lakeland 4-2 on Thursday at the Temple Terrace Tennis Center to claim the Class 3A-Region 4 championship, winning singles matches at Nos. 1-3 and at No. 1 doubles to clinch the win. Play at No. 2 doubles was retired in the second set after King secured the win in the first doubles match.
“Last year, we had a real phenomenal team and this year I’m playing No. 1,” said sophomore Vignesh Bhethanabotla, who after playing at No. 3 singles last year, moved to No. 1. “We lost two of our best players and our No. 5, so three of our guys were gone and I didn’t know if we’d be able to get this far, but it’s really great I was able to be a part of something this big again.”
Bhethanabotla won his No. 1 singles match, 6-2, 6-2, and with senior Greg Smith, won the No. 1 doubles match, 6-0, 6-1.
“We played No. 2 doubles last year, so we know each other,” Bhethanabotla. “His personality just really works out, and he’s a really great guy to play with.”
3A-5: Wiregrass Ranch headed back to state
Wiregrass Ranch (15-0) is headed to the state tournament as a team for the third time in four years, as the Bulls made quick work of host Venice by winning all five singles matches in straight sets.
Agie Moreno won 6-4, 6-3, Pedro Fernandez won 6-0, 6-2, Foresight Okungbowa won 6-0, 6-0, Alejandro Feliciano won 6-0, 6-1 and Sebastian Castillo won 6-0, 6-0 in seeds 1-5, respectively. Castillo is now riding a 21-match streak in which he hasn’t lost a game.
“That’s just really impressive,” coach Dave Wilson said.
Wilson said this is the one of the strongest teams he’s taking to state and may have the best chance to advance. However, Wilson knows the Bulls will have to deal with players from Naples Barron Collier, which has multiple state titles in recent history.
“It’s been a pretty good team effort all year, but we’re playing really well right now and even playing on a different level,” Wilson said. “This is the best team out of the three times we’ve been to state. I feel really good going into the tournament, so as long as I get them, we’ll be good.”
2A-5: Jesuit cruises past Boca Ciega
ST. PETERSBURG — Despite graduating its top three singles players from last year’s third-place team at the state tournament, Jesuit will make its fourth consecutive state tournament appearance next week after defeating Boca Ciega, 4-1, in the Class 2A-Region 5 championship.
The Tigers, who have finished third in the state tournament the past two years, won the Nos. 2-5 singles matches to avoid doubles play.
4A-4: Plant falls short vs. Sarasota Riverview
Plant’s quest for a state title fell short in the Class 4A-Region 4 championship, where the Panthers lost at Sarasota Riverview, 4-1.
Plant’s lone win came from Thomas Harmon at No. 3 singles. Harmon defeated Riverview’s James Cramer, 6-2, 6-1.
2A-4: Pasco drops 5-2 match to Nature Coast
BROOKSVILLE — Minus its top player, Pasco fell a step short of state for the third year in a row, dropping the Class 2A-Region 4 final at Brooksville Nature Coast, 5-2.
Missing junior Joshua Morris, who is serving a six-week suspension, the Pirates (15-5) lineup moved up a spot facing the team they lost to in district the previous week.
The Sharks (16-2) won four of the five singles to clinch the victory.
Pasco’s lone singles win came from Brendan Ray at No. 3, defeating Dakota Willey in three sets, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Ray and Herry Edwards combined to down Jerry Bianculli and Nick Pais at No. 2 doubles, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1.
“You always think of what might have been, but you can’t think about that,” Pasco coach Mickey Wilks said. “You’ve got to go with what reality is at the moment. Hopefully Josh (Morris) will learn from this, because I know he feels bad, too. He knows he would have helped the team out a lot today. It’s just that ‘What if?’ ’’
Chris Bernhardt Jr., Hernando Today
1A-4: Berkeley eliminated
WINTER HAVEN — Berkeley Prep was eliminated by All Saints’ Academy in the Class 1A-Region 4 final.