Hilton Head Prep came into the SCISAA Class 3-A boys tennis championship match with the comfort of knowing it had already beaten its opponent, cross-island rival Hilton Head Christian Academy.
In fact, the Dolphins (14-2) had twice this season dispatched the Eagles in close matches.
But Prep head coach Clint Van Aswegan was cautious.
"I knew there were a couple of key matches we had to pay attention to," Van Aswegan said Saturday after the Dolphins stopped the Eagles 5-3 to win the state championship at Hilton Head Beach and Tennis Resort.
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He was speaking of the Nos. 2 and 4 singles matches.
At No. 2, Prep's Colton Lavery and HHCA's Ben Likins had split close matches this season. The same went for Prep's Amit Kohli and HHCA's Alex Likins at No. 4.
"I knew that those two would be pivotal," Van Aswegan said. "Lose both of those, and it changes the whole match."
At No. 4, Kohli stymied Alex Likins, 6-1, 6-1. But the No. 2 match illustrated his point.
Lavery and Ben Liknis played a tight match that grew heated enough, Prep's Jared Woodson and HHCA's Hampton Drake were brought on the court to be line judges.
With all the other singles matches complete, Prep holding a 4-1 lead and all the spectators focused on one match, Lavery won the second set 7-6 to force a tiebreaker.
A Lavery win would have ended the match. Instead, Ben Likins won the tiebreaker 10-8 and forced the teams to play doubles.
"He's a super scrappy guy, so hard to beat," Eagles coach Eric Wammock said of Ben Likins. "He never gives up a match. And Colton played really well."
At No. 1 doubles, Drake again got the best of Woodson. After a 6-1, 6-1 win at No. 1 singles, Drake paired with Ben Likins to defeat Woodson and Lavery 6-1, 6-3.
But at No. 2 doubles, Prep's Justin Stubblefield and Jack Kelley knocked off Hilton Head Christian's Cameron Clark and Jack Kelley 6-2, 6-2 and the Dolphins' celebration began.
"I felt like, coming in, we had the team that could beat Hilton Head Christian," Van Aswegan said. "I'm definitely very happy with my squad right now."
Coming in, Wammock knew what the Eagles (4-7) faced in Prep.
"I really thought for us to have a reasonable shot," Wammock said, "we had to win three singles matches. They were just a little too tough for us.
"I want to congratulate them. It's good to play such a class match. The turnout was great. It couldn't have been more enjoyable."
The match was the final one at Hilton Head Christian for Drake. One of four Eagles seniors, he'll play for Clemson next season.
"When you play with him, you pretty much know you're up 2-0," Wammock said.
But Wammock believes his team's future is bright.
"We've got a really good crop of young players," he said. "Wait a couple years. I'm looking forward to when they get better together."
Van Aswegan loses just one player off this championship team, but it's a big one -- Woodson.
"It's a huge loss," Van Aswegan said. "I know he had a tough day with Hampton. But I told him, 'You're taking the bullet for us at No. 1. You're allowing the other guys to play up to their potential.'
"Without him, we don't even compete today."
Hilton Head Prep 5, Hilton Head Christian Academy 3
Singles -- No. 1 Hampton Drake (HHCA) def. Jared Woodson 6-1, 6-1; No. 2 Ben Likins (HHCA) def. Colton Lavery 6-1, 6-7, 10-8; No. 3 Jack Kelly (HHP) def. Cameron Clark 6-3, 6-1; No. 4 Amit Kohli (HHP) def. Alex Likins 6-1, 6-1; No. 5 Justin Stubblefield (HHP) def. John Ziegler 7-6, 6-2; No. 6 Sam Fried (HHP) def. Walker Wood 6-4, 6-3.
Doubles -- No. 1 Drake/B. Likins (HHCA) def. Woodson/Lavery 6-1, 6-3; No. 2 Stubblefield/Kelly def. Clark/Ziegler 6-2, 6-2.