First Colby Willis (6-1, 6-3) scored a point at No. 3 singles before Andrew Winter and Daniel Blake (6-4, 6-2) added another point at No. 1 doubles to stake the Jags to a 2-0 lead little more than an hour into the overall match. Then things became much more difficult as the remaining players on the court toiled under the noon-day sun, battling for each point to the death in this elimination match.
Finally, 41 minutes later Barrett Lavender and Ben Eady scored the match-clinching victory (6-1, 5-7, 6-4) at No. 2 doubles.
“We slowed down in the second set, but we picked it up in the third set,” Lavender said.
Crawford was overjoyed his team — which had advanced to second-round matches the last three years in a row as well as six times in the last seven years and seven times in 10 years — finally broke through to the third round for the first time in school history.
“Our doubles really came through big for us today,” he said.
The fourth and final point came when the No. 1 singles match ended 0-6, 7-5, 6-2 in Brett Piland’s favor to account for the match’s final margin 10 minutes after Lavender and Eady emerged victorious at No. 2 singles.
“That was tennis the way it should be played,” Crawford said of Piland’s match. “Any time you can get a point from your No. 1 singles player that is big.”
Thirteen minutes after Piland’s victory, the No. 3 singles match was pulled with SHS’s Hez Apperson and his Howard Huskies counterpart deadlocked 7-6, 6-7.
The match spelled the end of the season for Macon-based Howard High (12-3), which advanced to the state semifinals last season before being eliminated by eventual state runner-up St. Pius X.
“They’re a good team,” Crawford said of Howard. “They finished second to West Laurens (in Region 2-AAA), which we knew was very good.”
Spalding (16-3) now advances to a state quarterfinal-round match it will host Monday — announced start time between 1 and 2 p.m. — against Westside-Augusta (19-1), 3-0 second-round winner against Crisp County.
The match will again be played in front of the student body.
“It was great to have the student body out here,” Crawford said of the fan support. “We’ll do it again Monday.”