TAMPA — If history has taught us anything, it's that Plant and Wharton need more than two days to decide the boys district champion and runnerup, though on Tuesday both teams clinched spots in next week's region tournaments.
With the teams separated by two points, weather pushed what will be the decisive Nos. 1 and 2 doubles matches to today, and if Wharton wins both the squads will be looking at a head-to-head tiebreaker on Friday.
"It always seems to come down to this," said Plant coach Michael McWilliams, whose Panthers lead 22-20 in the Class 4A, District 5 championships.
The teams could not wrap up Tuesday at Hunters Green after a weather delay put the event behind schedule. The doubles finals today at 9 a.m. will decide the district champion, but only if Plant can win one of them.
Otherwise, it's another drawn-out district tournament. Last year, Plant won and Wharton needed to beat Newsome to get the runnerup spot; the Wildcats went to win a third straight state title.
The contentious rivalry between the Wharton and Plant boys added a bit of drama to a tournament that otherwise lacked any after the Plant girls steamrolled the field to win every singles and doubles final en route to 27 points, well ahead of second-place Wharton (16).
The Panthers got decisive straight-set singles wins from Blair Martin, Claire Mitchell Andrews, Carol Marie Fraley, Natalie Franklin and Julia Rodriguez.
Despite losing their coach and No. 1 player Amber Li, who decided to skip the high school tennis season, last year's state runnerup did not miss a beat.
"We're such a strong team," said Martin, a sophomore who beat Freedom's Joanna Karanxha 6-0, 6-2 at No. 1. "It was a big deal (to sweep) because coming in we had a lot of big shoes to fill."
4A-7: Plant City boys clinch region berth
The Plant City boys qualified for region matches with a runnerup finish in the Class 4A-7 tournament in Sarasota.
Raiders No. 1 singles player Harrison Heysek, No. 3 Justin Keel, No. 4 Jacob Cole and No. 5 Trent Lott all advanced to the finals, but each lost to Sarasota Riverview, which outlasted Plant City, 21-10.
"We got a lot of good first-round singles performances, and that set us up well," Plant City coach Dale Rice said.
The Raiders girls placed third, with No. 5 player Brooke Allie reaching the final. Plant City also got singles wins from No. 1 Isis Ash, No. 3 Ellen Adams and No. 4 Clara McCloud.
Eduardo A. Encina, Times staff writer