SCISA’s Class AAA Region III may be the closest thing to a college league in all of high school boys tennis, certainly in South Carolina.
As Pinewood Prep coach Bryant McKee says, “Our region is like watching college tennis. All of the Nos. 1 and 2 players will play college tennis. Watching the matches is pretty amazing stuff.”
McKee’s team has junior Joel Roberts and freshman Adam Elliget, while Porter-Gaud is led by junior Thomas Spratt and sophomore Junior Duarte. The other two teams in the region, Hilton Head Christian and two-time defending state champion Hilton Head Prep, appear to have even better talent at the top two positions. Prep’s Andrew Schafer and Juan Sheppard, and Christian’s Nick Bybel and Hampton Drake have swept both Porter-Gaud and Pinewood Prep at Nos. 1 and 2 singles thus far this season.
But, of course, SCISA tennis goes much deeper than the top two singles positions. A lot can happen in the bottom four singles and three doubles matches that complete a SCISA match.
Porter-Gaud, which has played Hilton Head Prep in the last three state finals, offered proof of that earlier this month on back-to-back days when the Cyclones scored 5-4 victories over both Hilton Head Prep and Christian. Porter-Gaud won the bottom three singles spots and last two doubles positions against Prep, and three of the bottom four singles and last two doubles against Christian.
“We’re getting a lot of mileage out of the lower end of the order,” veteran Porter-Gaud coach Tom Higgins said.
As a result, the Cyclones are right back in the middle of the region race, with a battle set for Wednesday between Porter-Gaud and Hilton Head Prep on the clay courts at Hilton Head Island’s Palmetto Dunes likely determing the region championship and the top seeding in the SCISA playoffs that will begin April 23. Each team has one loss in the region.
The Wednesday match could figure even more prominently since the winner possibly could play host to the state final, which in Hilton Head Prep’s case could be played on clay. Sumter also is a possible site for the state final.
Despite splitting with the Cyclones and losing twice to Hilton Head Prep, Christian could be a spoiler in the playoffs for either Porter-Gaud or Hilton Head Prep, depending on which half of the state draw Christian is placed.
The upper region’s Hammond School also could slip into a high seeding, but most observers rate the three Region III teams as vastly superior to the Columbia team.
Local Notes • High School League Class AA Region 6 should be decided in an April 26 makeup match when perennial champion Bishop England visits Academic Magnet. The Bishops prevailed 4-3 in the first encounter between the two teams with a 13-11 third-set win in No. 1 doubles. Both teams should qualify for the state playoffs again.
• Porter-Gaud No. 1 Mi’Kola Cooper will sign a full women’s tennis grant with Morgan State on Wednesday.
• Former local junior Meghan Blevins got off to an 11-4 start as a freshman at No. 3 singles for Oklahoma State.
• Diane Barker captured the women’s 55 singles title and placed second in doubles in the national clay-courts held recently in Houston. Brenda Carter took titles in women’s 65 singles and doubles.