SELLERSBURG — Borden slayed the Dragons.
The Braves won their first-ever sectional title — while also ending the state’s third-longest active sectional championship streak — with a 3-2 triumph over the host Dragons in the Silver Creek Sectional final on Thursday afternoon.
The Dragons entered the postseason having won 29 straight sectional titles — which ranked behind only Floyd Central (32) and Munster (38).
“It’s been a long time, I know, since anybody else has got to feel this, so us — being the smallest school in this sectional — it is amazing,” said Borden coach Josh Nale, whose team will face the winner of the Floyd Central Sectional in Tuesday’s Silver Creek Regional semifinals. “They don’t win that many sectionals in a row by luck, they’re skilled. They are a very good tennis team and we knew it was going to be our most difficult match of the year. I’m just glad our guys showed up and competed as hard as they could every point.”
The last point was the hardest to come by for the Braves (16-3). After the two teams split the first four matches — Silver Creek won Nos. 1 and 2 singles while Borden triumphed at No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles — the championship was decided at No. 1 doubles. That’s where freshman A.J. Agnew and junior Ryan Adams outlasted Silver Creek senior Noah Keinath and junior Jon Hurley 3-6, 6-1, 7-5.
“It was a tough fight,” Agnew said. “We had good shots, they had good shots, we just had more.”
The Dragons had more in the first set, though, to take the early lead before the Braves regrouped.
“We talked to coach, talked to each other, came up with a gameplan and we dug deep,” Adams said.
Adams and Agnew won the second set in convincing fashion to set the stage for a dramatic, back-and-forth final frame. Borden led 4-2 and 5-4, but Keinath and Hurley wouldn’t go away easily. Silver Creek tied it at 5-all before a break, followed by an Agnew service game, clinched the title for the Braves.
“Ryan Adams, that’s what he does, he grinds out long games,” Nale said. “And A.J. Agnew, our freshman, the sky’s the limit for him. … It’s amazing [for him] to show his grit as a freshman and stand in there and do all the things right to get the win.”
It’s a victory the Braves had been aiming for all season.
“During the summer, when we start workouts, we make a chart of our goals and this was at the top of our chart,” said Nale, whose team also received a three-set triumph from sophomore Kaden Holmes at No. 3 singles and a straight-sets win from C.J. Colley and Sterling Mikel at No. 2 doubles Thursday.
The other goals were to “win [the Southern Athletic] Conference again. Go undefeated in conference. Beat every [Class] A school we play. Beat every 2A school we play. Beat New Albany, [and] beat Bedford North Lawrence,” according to Nale.
“That’s where we started at the beginning of the year. That was our vision for the season. And at the top was ‘win sectional,’” Nale said. “It was the last checkmark we needed for the season. I’m glad we finally get to check it off.”
The Dragons picked up their points in the top two singles' matches. Sophomore Grant Miller downed Borden senior Mason LaGrange 6-1, 6-1 at No. 1 while sophomore Lucas Densford beat Braves sophomore Mason Carter 6-3, 6-4 at No. 2.
“All I can say is props to Borden, it was a very hard-fought match,” Silver Creek coach Ben Ahlbrand said. “It feels great winning a sectional title, it doesn’t feel so great coming up on the losing end. But like I always say, I feel like we learn more from our losses than we do from our wins. Hopefully my team can learn from this and move forward and continue to improve."
Despite losing six of their seven starters off last year's sectional-title team, the Dragons went 12-3 — including a perfect 9-0 in the Mid-Southern Conference — this season.
“I was confident in the fact that the group that I had was strong and I thought that they could contend for things," Ahlbrand said. "That just continued throughout the season, they continued to improve and work on things. Today we just came up a little bit short of our goal. We did achieve that conference title that we wanted. We’re 12-3 now on the season and that’s a great record, by any standard, especially with such strong competition in the area.”
The Dragons will graduate Keinath, but everyone else from Thursday's lineup should be back next year.
“I look forward to the learning and growing again, and continuing to improve,” Ahlbrand said. “I’ve got a solid group of eighth-graders coming in and hopefully we’ll continue to build and start a new streak of sectional titles next year.”