FORTVILLE — As day turned to night Thursday at Mt. Vernon, Ben Farley, Bailey Hull, Shayan Khokar and Zachary White played 150 minutes of tennis that no one in attendance will soon forget.
In the end, Farley and Khokhar, New Palestine’s tandem at No. 2 doubles, outlasted their Greenfield-Central counterparts in a three-set marathon, thereby clinching the Dragons’ fifth sectional championship in the past six years.
An hour and 15 minutes after NP’s Connor Swain leveled the sectional final score at two with a straight set win at No. 2 singles, Farley and Khokhar rallied for a 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 7-6 (9-7) victory, staving off a trio of match points in the third set before forcing a tiebreaker.
The victory was the fifth sectional crown for eighth-year coach Chris Hardin and the 12th in program history.
At the match’s conclusion, Hardin visited the Cougar huddle and offered some words of encouragement.
“There was a different range of emotions, up and down. I think everybody here was feeling it,” Hardin said of the No. 2 doubles final. “It was just a tough match, and you’d hate for anybody to have to lose it, especially with the sectional title riding on that tiebreaker.”
The winner of the North Central Sectional awaits Hardin’s squad Tuesday at North Central.
Jacob Purcell topped G-C’s Thomas Spears 6-3, 6-2 to hand the Dragons the first point of Thursday’s final.
Max Holtzclaw and Jake Kauth defeated David Thompson and Pete Rusche in the No. 1 doubles final to level the match at one. Dakota Smith ousted Coltin Espich 6-4, 6-0 at No. 1 singles to give the Cougars a momentary 2-1 advantage.
But, Swain beat Brandon Hull 6-4, 6-1 to ensure the No. 2 doubles match would decide the title — a popular pre-match prediction by onlookers Thursday, and a notion the players were familiar with entering the night.
“Coach told us that we were going to be the deciding match going into it, so we were mentally prepared for that,” Farley said. “It’s always tough going down, but we came back and pulled through. We wanted to do it for the seniors, just knowing it’s their last chance to get a sectional win.”