By TRIBUNE SPORTS STAFF
---- — With the match tied at 2-2, Kokomo’s No. 2 doubles tandem of Joey Hurlocker and Blake Bookshire outlasted Eastern’s Daniel Pugh and Riley Haupert in a marathon three-setter, 6-7 (6-7), 6-4, 7-5, to lift the Wildkats to a 3-2 victory over the Comets in Thursday’s semifinal round of the Kokomo boys tennis sectional.
Hurlocker and Brookshire trailed 4-3 on serve in the third set before winning four of final five games to pick up the victory.
“I’m really proud of those guys, Joey and Blake,” Kokomo coach Shawn Flanary said. “That’s a nerve-racking situation to be in and they handled it well. Really, this is the first time that six of our seven varsity players have played in a sectional match with us drawing the bye. That was a little concerning, and we came in a little nervous, but we overcame it and increased our level of play to where we could come out on top.”
Kokomo (7-12) swept doubles play on its way to the win. The No. 1 tandem of Erik Bowen and Brad Dockemeyer downed Zach Walker and Austin Chase 6-4, 6-2.
Craig Simon had the Kats’ other win, topping Ryan Manfred at No. 1 singles, 6-0, 6-2.
Eastern (10-12) picked up wins at No. 2 and No. 3 singles. Logan Colwell defeated Bryce York 6-3, 6-4 at the No. 2 post, while Robbie Walling was a 6-1, 6-1 winner over Grant Patterson at No. 3.
Kokomo will head into today seeking its third straight sectional crown when it faces Taylor. The Kats have defeated the Titans in each of the previous two sectional championship rounds.
“Our boys are excited,” Flanary said. “Taylor has a really strong team. They’ve done a lot of great things, and their record shows that. We’re excited to have another day of tennis where we will look to battle and prove ourselves. We know we will have our hands full with a very strong team.”
The title match is at 4 p.m.
Taylor 5, Northwestern 0
The Titans (14-3) won four of their five spots in straight sets, including 6-0, 6-0 wins from Jack Lipchik and Camden Kimbler at Nos. 1 and 2 singles, respectively.
Casey Glick was a 6-4, 6-2 winner at No. 3 singles, while the Titans’ No. 1 tandem of Austin Douglas and Cole Schroeder took a 6-3, 6-2 decision.
The No. 2 duo of Connor Leicht and Treaver Harris completed the sweep with a three-set victory, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1.
“That was a really good win for our 2 doubles team,” Taylor coach Dave Wise said. “Northwestern gave us a good match. Obviously our top players didn’t have too much trouble. Camden and Jack had pretty short matches. But, 3 singles and 1 doubles were good matches. No. 2 doubles went three sets, so it was a good workout.”
Taylor enters today looking for its first sectional championship since 1981.
“We’re ready to play the championship match, and are looking forward to facing Kokomo in the finals,” Wise said. “It’s the Kokomo Sectional so you have to play Kokomo. Someone asked me what our goals were at the beginning of the season. Well, our team was so young and inexperienced that we didn’t have goals. We were just going to take it day by day and match by match. This is a team that’s overachieved to this point, and I hope we’re not done.
“They’re aware of the ‘81 team, so they’re hoping make their mark in Taylor history.”