Panthers wrap up state tournament appearance

Published 9:07 am Friday, April 27, 2012

By Stephen Dawkins | Assistant Managing Editor

Jemison’s Jake Long was the last athlete standing for tennis in Chilton County when he fell in the third round of the Class 4A boys state tournament on Friday.

Chilton County’s girls and Jemison’s both were competing in state tournaments.

All of their entrants have been eliminated. There will be no individual or team titles, but their exact finish in the standings won’t be determined until the tournaments come to a close Friday night.

Long advanced further than anyone else from Chilton County. Competing in the No. 2 doubles position at the Cox Tennis Center in Mobile, he defeated Carson Phillips of Brooks (6-1, 6-4) in the first round and Zach Cardwell of Oneonta (6-1, 6-2) in the second round before falling to Michael McLaughlin of Douglas (6-1, 6-0) in the third round.

Other JHS first-round winners were William Morton (6-1, 6-1 over Cullen Wilson of Saraland at No. 4 singles) and Long/Andrew Morton (6-3, 6-2 over Cherokee County in No. 1 doubles).

Jemison coach Benton Morton said his team’s goal was to finish in the top 5 in team rankings. Morton said it appeared Friday morning that the Panthers would end up in the 6-7 range out of 10 teams.

“We had our chances,” he said. “We had three newbies, and they got a good taste of it.

“It’s quite different when you’ve got all these people watching you. It’s a lot of pressure. They’ll be better for it next year.”

There are no seniors on the squad, so expectations for next season should be even higher.

Chilton County’s girls also will likely anticipate a return visit next season because none of the players they took to Lagoon Park in Montgomery are seniors, either.

If the Tigers make it back, they’ll do so under different leadership. Coach Emily Espenan will not return next season because she is moving.

Anna Bearden was the only Chilton player to win her first-round match, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 over Hartselle’s Julie Holloday.

Espenan said the long day required at the competition–the Tigers warmed up at 7 a.m. Thursday and weren’t done playing until about 8 a.m.–wore on the players.