TAMPA — Two-time defending state champion Wharton scrapped and clawed for its life Tuesday afternoon at Hunter’s Green Country Club, surviving to play another day.
But just barely.
While the Plant boys rode their superior depth to the Class 4A-5 district championship, Newsome’s tandem of Derek Crossman and Chris Reigh won the final match of the day and the No. 2 doubles title to force a Friday playoff with Wharton at 8 a.m. at Hunter’s Green.
Both teams finished with 19 points.
Plant had 21 points after putting finalists at every spot except No. 2 singles. Adam Osiason at No. 5 was the Panthers’ only individual champ, however.
Wharton was hindered by the absence of its No. 4 singles and No. 2 doubles player, John Ho, who was playing at a junior tournament out of the area. The Wildcats didn’t have a finalist at either spot, and Ho will not be able to compete in the tiebreaker.
Wharton captured the Nos. 1-3 singles titles (Michael Alford, Ben Hwang and Rohit Navelkar, respectively) and No. 1 doubles (Alford-Navelkar).
Crossman won at No. 4 singles, and he and Reigh were outstanding in clinching a second-place tie for the Wolves.
There was not nearly as much drama on the girls side, as Plant rolled to the title with 28 points, with Newsome second (21).
The Panther girls went head to head with Newsome in every final except No. 1 singles, where Amber Li beat Alonso’s Erin Snook 6-4, 6-4. Snook’s effort was impressive, considering the Panthers dropped just five games in the other six finals, including 6-0, 6-0 sweeps at doubles.