With McCracken County owning the top two seeds in each of the four categories, today's championship matches in the First Region tennis tournament at the Larry J. Heflin Tennis Center were shaping up to be an all-Mustang affair.
Wes Averill, however, was able to crash the party at practically the last minute.
The senior from St. Mary faced second-seeded sophomore Logan McKinney in Tuesday's semifinals. In the day's longest match, third-seeded Averill emerged with a 7-5, 4-6, 10-6 victory. He will play top-seed Tommy Hagan, a 6-2, 6-1 winner over Caleb Jones from Community Christian Academy, in today's boys singles championship match.
Averill and McKinney had a hard-fought match where every point, game and set came down to the last shot.
"I always think of myself as confident and thinking I could go far, but I didn't think I'd get this far," Averill said afterward. "The way I play, I just get it back and get it back as much as I can. I try to get my opponent to make mistakes and that takes a while. My matches take a while and I knew this one would."
It was the only match of the day that required a third set where the first player to 10 points with at least a two-point lead would win. Averill had a 9-3 lead before McKinney battled back for three in a row that tightened things up. McKinney's last return sailed low into the net on his side of the court and set off a small celebration by Viking fans.
"He got those first serves and I got a glimpse of that finish line," Averill said of McKinney. "When he got those in, I had to stick it out and get that last point."
Based on an earlier meeting, Averill is expecting another long match on the court with Hagan.
"I went to a third set tiebreak with him like I did today," Averill said of Hagan. "I feel like it's going to be a real good match."
In other semifinal action, the Lady Mustangs finally wrapped up the First Region team title by winning all four of their contests. Michelle McKamey, the top-seeded girl, reached the championship with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Natalie West of Paducah Tilghman. McKamey will face McCracken teammate Taylor Sprouse, a 6-1, 6-2 winner over Graves County's Emily Whitnell.
The top-seeded girls doubles team of Madelyn Kauffman and McKenna Garneau downed Madelyn Chambers and Lara Shannon of Paducah Tilghman 6-1, 6-2.
They will face second-seed Mesa Trimm and Makensie Ellerman, a 6-1, 6-3 winner over Hannah Hunt and Olivia Petter of St. Mary.
The Lady Mustangs clinched the regional title with 16 points and Paducah Tilghman finished with 10. Murray and Graves County both have six points, followed by St. Mary (five), Calloway County (three) and Mayfield (one).
In boys doubles, top-seeded Mat Townsend and Grant Hammons easily advanced with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Andre Muniz and Ben Smith of St. Mary. Next up today are fellow Mustangs Landon Davis and Vincent Shiben, who defeated Dane Coles and Jake Guhy from Mayfield 6-3, 6-4.
On Monday, sportsmanship awards were presented to Davis and Murray's Samantha Taylor.
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