Locals qualify for state

Locals qualify for state

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Locals qualify for state

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Most prep student-athletes never get the chance to participate in MHSAA championships.

Pennfield junior Evan Thomas, on the other hand, is headed back to next weekend’s D-4 Boys’ Tennis Finals at Kalamazoo’s Stowe Stadium for the second time in two years.

In only his second season of ever playing tennis, no less.

As the Panthers’ No. 1 singles player, Thomas defeated Grass Lake’s Reed Whitely 6-0, 6-0 in the semifinals before being topped by Jackson Lumen Christi’s Connor Maddalena 6-4, 6-1 in the title match during Friday’s D-4 regional at Kellogg Community College.

Despite the setback, Thomas still qualified for the state meet as all competitors who reach the No. 1 singles final at regionals automatically qualify for state.

Making it out of Friday’s seven-school regional at KCC as a team locally was Bronson, which was runner-up with 11 points. Lumen Christi placed first with 24 points (it won titles at all eight flights), while Galesburg-Augusta had six points and Pennfield four. The St. Philip/Calhoun Christian co-op squad and Albion did not participate.

“This is like a dream come true,” said Pennfield’s Thomas, who last season — his first in organized prep tennis — went to state as a member of the Panthers’ state-qualifying team (where he and then-No. 1 doubles partner Logan Mir, now Pennfield’s No. 3 singles player as a junior, lost a first-round match).

“I started playing tennis only because I was watching it on TV one day, it peaked my interest, I tried it out and I liked it. Now, going back to state for the second year in a row, it just feels great. And at state, I just plan on taking it one match at a time and see what happens.”

Bronson will be making its first appearance at state as a team in nearly 15 years. At Friday’s regional, the Vikings lost to JCL in the finals at No. 2 singles (senior Robert O’Rourke), No. 1 doubles (juniors James Ramsey and Ryan Hagen), No. 2 doubles (senior Austin Pierson and junior Damion Smith), No. 3 doubles (sophomores Ryan O’Rourke and Sawyer Maddox) and No. 4 doubles (senior Kyler Scheenks and sophomore Philip Manoka). Bronson’s other players Friday in singles were seniors David Clemencio (No. 1), Jonah Houtz (No. 3) and Patrick Brabon (No. 4).

“We needed our doubles to come through today in order for us to have a chance at making state as a team, and they did what we hoped they’d do. Plus, we some got some points out of our singles, which played better than I’d thought,” said Bronson coach Steven Steward. “Everything just seemed to break our way today, we won a lot of close matches … and I’m proud of our team.”

The only other local to compete in a title match Friday was Galesburg-Augusta sophomore Calvin Foote, who lost 6-3, 6-0 to JCL’s Patrick Doerr at No. 3 singles.

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