INDIANAPOLIS — Crown them Johnson County boys tennis champions.
The Franklin Grizzly Cubs relied on grit and determination to defeat defending champion Center Grove on Thursday, 4-1, in a marathon title match that lasted nearly two and a half hours.
A heavy downpour of rain late in the afternoon moved the championship match from Center Grove to the indoor courts at the University of Indianapolis Tennis Center.
After the Cubs’ doubles teams pulled off early wins to give Franklin a 2-0 lead, senior Noah Roberts sealed the win with his 7-5, 6-3 victory against Center Grove sophomore Trey Thixton at No. 1 singles.
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Thixton jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first set and stretched it to 4-1 before Roberts came alive.
With his powerful left-handed serve and line shots, Roberts edged his way back to tie the first set at five games apiece.
Roberts then broke Thixton’s serve and finished off the opening set.
The second set was equally competitive, but Roberts steadied himself and had enough to outlast Thixton.
“He plays a lot like me,” Roberts said. “He obviously has the style I don’t like; I don’t like to play me.”
Roberts said winning the county in his final high school year ranks right up there with the best of them.
“It feels amazing right now,” he said. “We’ve been here so many times and it’s always been Center Grove, and we’ve always lost to them. But now to get it done, it just is amazing.”
Franklin’s No. 1 doubles team of senior Jake Rockey and junior Logan Snyder was equally impressive in its 7-5, 6-1 win against Center Grove junior Eli Lawyer-Smith and senior Akul Vijayvargiya.
The Trojan duo took an early 3-2 lead in the first set and got it to 5-4 before Franklin put its foot down and reeled off eight consecutive game wins and nine of the last 10 to secure the 7-5, 6-1 victory.
Franklin’s No. 2 doubles team of sophomore Josiah Rockey and junior Ethan Klem disposed of Trojan freshmen Grant Herron and Mason Runkle in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3.
“These kids really wanted to play and have a shot at this opportunity, and they played well,” said Cubs coach Rod Snyder.
“They gutted out that 3-2 semifinals win against Greenwood (Wednesday) and carried over some momentum in this match.
“As good as Noah (Roberts) is, our doubles guys all played well individually and then they gelled as a team. I’m really looking forward to seeing how well they continue to play as we head down the road.”
Franklin made it a 4-1 win after Cubs junior Jonah Rockey defeated Trojans sophomore Nic Ballesteros 7-5, 5-7, 11-9 in a super tiebreaker.
The Trojans lone point came at No. 3 singles, where sophomore Mitch Runkle defeated Franklin junior Andy Bennett, 6-1, 6-0.
Asked where this win ranks in his long coaching career, Snyder didn’t hesitate for a moment.
“It’s got to be up there close to number one,” he said, “because I think Center Grove has won this thing a lot of years in a row. We haven’t seen it for a long, long time.”