The preliminaries are over for Porter-Gaud’s boys tennis team. The Cyclones’ 5-1 romp past top-seeded Hammond School on Wednesday afternoon in Columbia was just another stepping stone en route to Friday’s SCISA Class AAA state championship match.

The only surprise is that the title match will not be against two-time defending state champion Hilton Head Prep, but instead third-seeded Hilton Head Christian. The No. 3 team from SCISA Region III-AAA, Hilton Head Christian avenged a pair of regular season losses to No. 2 seed and region champion Hilton Head Prep with a 5-3 win Wednesday.

Hilton Head Prep had played in five straight state finals.

Friday’s Porter-Gaud-Hilton Head Christian final will be played at a neutral site still to be determined.

The fourth-seeded Cyclones (12-2) were far superior to their Columbia opponent in the the semifinals. It was such a blowout for coach Tom Higgins’ team that freshman Junior Duarte, senior Hunter Mitchell and sophomore Seth Pinosky didn’t yield a game to Hammond (11-2) in the Nos. 2-4 singles positions and the Cyclones didn’t need to play doubles in wrapping up a fourth consecutive berth in the state finals.

Junior Conner Grady collected the other victory for the Cyclones at No. 6 singles, while junior Payne Hoy suffered a 13-11 loss in a third-set match tiebreaker at No. 5.

“We played pretty well. We were ready to play,” Higgins said. “I was real impressed with the way our kids focused and concentrated.”

Higgins was particularly impressed with the play of big-hitting Porter-Gaud junior Thomas Spratt, who posted a convincing 6-4, 6-3 win over Furman-bound Hammond senior Ben Horst at No. 1 singles.

Surprisingly looking ahead to a state final against a team other than Hilton Head Prep, Higgins said, “We are not going to play on clay, so we’re in pretty good shape.” The Cyclones split a pair of matches against Hilton Head Christian on hard courts, but lost last week to Hilton Head Prep on clay.

PORTER-GAUD 5, HAMMOND 1 SINGLES: Thomas Spratt (PG) def. Ben Horst, 6-4, 6-3; Junior Duarte (PG) def. Miles Reese, 6-0, 6-0; Hunter Mitchell (PG) def. Ryan Dasputpa, 6-0, 6-0; Seth Pinosky (PG) def. Steven Lynch, 6-0, 6-0; Ellis Reese (H) def. Payne Hoy, 6-3, 1-6, 13-11; Conner Grady (PG) def. Albert Kitchens, 6-2, 6-2.

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