JACKSON For 18 consecutive matches this season, Tupelo High School’s girls doubles team of Sadie Gardner and Erin Montgomery were unbeatable.
Saturday afternoon on the scorching-hot courts of the Bridges Tennis Center, Gardner and Montgomery tasted defeat at the worst possible time in the Class 5A state championship match. Gulfport’s Bette Killebrew and Elizabeth Perry rallied to beat the Tupelo duo 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 and propel their school the state team title.
Gardner, who defeated Killebrew and Perry in three sets with Suzie Kilpatrick for the state title last season, knew the Gulfport twosome wouldn’t fall easily.
“From last year’s experience, I knew they would come back,” she said. “We let them do it. We didn’t stick with our game. In the third set, it came down to who would last in this heat. They did.”
Gardner and Montgomery reached the finals by beating Beth Hassell and Nennessey Howell 7-5, 7-6 (7-4) in the semifinals.
In the 5A boys singles championship match, Tupelo’s Jack Wilson lost 6-3, 6-2 to Vicksburg freshman Duncan Howell.
Wilson struggled all match with his serve and was broken by Howell four times. Wilson also didn’t take advantage of Howell’s service troubles.
“He double faulted a lot and I didn’t take advantage of it,” said Wilson, a junior. “I didn’t break his serve. He just beat me today.”
Howell said consistent play was the key.
“When I got ahead I didn’t let him come back,” he said. “Jack’s a good player. Had we played tomorrow he could have beaten me.”
Wilson reached the finals with a hard-fought 7-6 (7-1), 6-2 semifinal victory over Swedish exchange student Kristoffer Ljungfelt of Pascagoula.
“I played real well in the tiebreaker,” Wilson said. “He was a good player, a strong player.”
Wilson, who lost only once during the regular season, said it hurt to get this far and lose.
“The season’s been pretty good up to here,” he said. “When you don’t do it here, it’s kind of a failure. He (Howell) has gotten a lot better, but I feel like I’ve gotten better. I need to go home and work a little more.”
Tupelo, the two-time defending team champion, finished with eight points and tied Clinton for second place behind Gulfport.
n In Class 1A, Lucy Hall of East Webster won the girls singles title, beating Christine Riddle of Vicksburg St. Aloysius 6-1, 6-1.
In the girls doubles finals, Ginger Abraham and Campbell Engle of St. Al defeated Holly Stidham and Deone Helms of East Webster 6-1, 6-0.
In the opening round of 1A play, Smithville’s Lassi Lee lost 6-0, 6-1 to St. Al’s Riddle, Smithville’s Andres Martinet lost 6-0, 6-0 to St. Al’s David Blackburn, and Smithville’s Nora Sligh and Laure Saylors lost 6-0, 6-1 to St. Al’s Abraham and Engle.