When moments were tense Tuesday, Alex Angus imagined the feeling of walking to the net and shaking his opponent's hand after victory.
The Beaufort High School sophomore experienced the feeling twice during the Eagles' dramatic, loud and sometimes controversial 4-3 victory over Bluffton High School. With the win, Beaufort High avoided a standings headache and claimed the Region 8-AAAA tennis title, wresting it back from the Bobcats.
The Eagles will host a to-be-determined opponent to open the Class 4-A playoffs next week.
Angus, the Eagles' No. 1 singles player, avenged an earlier loss to Aaron Newland by beating him in two sets, with both going to tiebreakers.
The singles match lasted more than two hours and gave Beaufort High a 3-2 lead entering doubles. After Bluffton won at No. 2 doubles, Angus and teammate James Bachety secured the region title by winning their doubles match in two sets.
Angus said his visualization techniques helped him keep his head.
"If you don't, the tide can change real quick," he said.
Beaufort High knows how quickly change can come. During the previous year, Beaufort High led deep into its second match with Bluffton and seemed headed for a shared region championship before the Bobcats stormed back.
The teams remained competitive this year, with a little extra on the side.
Earlier in the month at Bluffton, the Bobcats were forced to forfeit a doubles match for using a player who had been ejected during singles for unsportsmanlike conduct. Beaufort High won that one 4-3.
On Tuesday, after Beaufort High's Bachety called opponent Richard Snyder's shot outside, Bluffton coach Bob Brown questioned the Eagles' senior through the fence and said it was the worst call he had seen in high school tennis.
Order prevailed when a line judge was introduced to the No. 1 singles match between Angus and Newland.
"It's a hostile environment," Brown said. "... My guys played with a lot of class and effort. These teams are very close. So sometimes the emotion makes a difference. I think tennis decided it for the most part."
Beaufort High freshman Quinten Paton-Melland helped flip the match when he came back to win the second set and tiebreaker at No. 4 singles. Paton-Melland said he almost slept during the first set and that some water between sets helped.
"It's kind of like a clean slate for the second set," he said. "You get to go out and try again and do what you want to do and have another chance at winning."
Beaufort High finished 9-1 in Region 8-AAAA, its lone loss to Summerville. The Green Wave, Bobcats and Eagles would have each had two losses with a Bluffton victory Tuesday.
Brown joked that an accountant would be required to sift through the tiebreakers Wednesday morning should the Bobcats win.
But Beaufort High was able to eliminate the numbers game. Baseball practice let out in time for Eagles baseball players to crowd the courts behind the concession stand used for the deciding doubles matches.
They hollered with each point.
"We have a new relationship with the baseball team now," Beaufort High coach David Riedmayer said. "We'll be coming to their games now."
Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.
Beaufort High 4, Bluffton 3
Singles: No. 1 Alex Angus (BFT) def. Aaron Newland 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-1); No. 2 James Bachety (BFT) def. Richard Snyder 6-1, 6-4; No. 3 Davis Rosenblum (BLF) def. Jack Louw 6-1, 7-5; No. 4 Quinten Paton-Melland (BFT) def. Morgan Philoxene 2-6, 6-2 (10-6); No. 5 Matthew Bornstein (BLF) def. Owen Stovall 6-0, 6-2.
Doubles: No. 1 Angus/Bachety def. Newland/Snyder 6-3, 6-4; No. 2 Dakota Story/Matthew Ball (BLF) def. Daniel Lange/Kam Olin 6-2, 6-2.