TEMPLE TERRACE — The challenge for the King boys wasn’t so much to defeat region semifinal opponent Winter Haven on Tuesday.
After a couple of games on the Lightfoot Recreation Center hard courts, the Lions were clearly playing at a higher level.
The focus for King then became: who can win while surrendering the fewest games?
That honor belonged to freshman Vignesh Bhethanabotla, who was victorious 6-0, 6-0 over John Portlock at No. 3 singles.
King made short work of Winter Haven in all five singles matches. Kiril Kirkov (No. 1) won 6-3, 6-0, Victor Ke (No. 2) upended his opponent 6-2, 6-2, Gregory Smith (No. 4) rolled 6-2, 6-2 and Hengyi Wu (No. 5) was a 6-1, 6-2 winner.
With the singles sweep, King advances to the Class 3A region final, which it will host Thursday. King also took both doubles points.
“Everybody did their jobs today,” Ke said. “In the beginning I was a little nervous. I started off slow but I got in a groove and played my game.”
In the tightest match of the afternoon, Ke and Kirkov were pushed at No. 1 doubles by Blake Dantzler and Frank Portlock, but the King pair eventually held on for a 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) victory. Bhethanabotla and Smith shut out their opponents 8-0 at No. 2 doubles.
The King girls led George Jenkins 3-2 after all singles play had been completed. The Lions, however, couldn’t get a necessary point in doubles, losing both matches and falling to the Eagles 4-3.
“Our doubles had been playing real well,” King girls coach Don Rooks said. “But (George Jenkins) had very good doubles teams, both of them.”
Sneha Sathish put the Lions up early with her 6-3, 6-0 victory at No. 2 singles. Kathy Tian won a tight match at No. 4 singles 6-4, 6-4 and Jennifer Lin held off her opponent 6-3, 6-4 at No. 5 to give King the advantage going into doubles.
At No. 1 doubles Rachael Adler and Sathish nearly rallied to force a third set but fell 6-2, 7-5 to Taylor Oliver and Caitlyn Ryan. Sandra Khalife and Tedlin Lach claimed the all-important first set over King’s Tian and Lola Bakare 7-5 in the winner-take-all match at No. 2 doubles and cruised in the second set 6-1.
“We had a chance,” Rooks said. “It went to the end.”
Adler fell to Oliver 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 at No. 1, and Bakare was blanked by Khalife 6-0, 6-0 at No. 3 for both of the Eagles’ singles points.
Road losses: Host George Jenkins took four of five matches, beating the Chamberlain boys. The Chiefs’ lone victory came from Hunter O’Brien — 6-0, 6-3 over Carlos Ferreira. Also in Polk County, Lakeland swept Hillsborough’s girls 7-0.
Information from the Ledger was used in this report.