JOHNS CREEK – Lambert had a chance with its No. 2 and No. 3 singles battling it out as the sunset Tuesday night at the Atlanta Athletic Club, but in one anticlimactic moment its impressive run through the GHSA Class AAAAAA playoffs was finished.
Johns Creek sophomore Cole Gromley ended the match with a 6-1 victory in the deciding set to send the Gladiators to the state championship final, which will be played May 7 against Northview at Clayton County International Park.
Gromley's win over Lambert's Jack Metzger (6-4, 6-1) cut short an impressive showing between two familiar foes in the Longhorns' Drew Lahey and the Gladiators' Easton Thomas. The Kennesaw State and College of Charleston signees, respectively, battled for two and a half hours and were halfway through their third set when the contest concluded.
“They are too highly talented players. You get long points, long games, long sets and long matches with them,” Lambert head coach Eric Hampton said. “It was fun tennis to watch.”
Lambert's Will Harper won from the top line, 6-2, 6-0, against Murphy McCullough. The Longhorns didn't have it on their side over on the doubles courts, where Garrett McVay and Brendan Coleman fell 1-6, 1-6, and senior Jack Flikeid and partner Jungmo Yang fell 0-6, 0-6.
Despite the tough loss, Hampton told his team to hold its head high. After a 7-4 finish in almost unarguably the state's toughest region, the Longhorns won three straight matches against North Gwinnett, Campbell and Woodstock to join Johns Creek, Northview and Chattahoochee in an all-Region 6 final four.
“It was a great season. I'm proud of them, but more importantly they should be proud of themselves,” Hampton said. “When you have a four seed playing a one seed this tight, it's pretty impressive. The level of play in this region is second to none.”
Johns Creek's winners in doubles action were Ben Ash and Ethan Howie and Hary Nagi and Sahil Raina.
With the season over, Hampton has his sights set on next season when the team moves up to Class AAAAAAA. With only two seniors leaving and the other three schools from the current final four staying put in Class AAAAAA, he hopes the Longhorns can carry momentum.
“I'm very excited. I'm always excited, but next year sets up well for us,” Hampton said. “We want to contend, hopefully go get a state championship.”