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San Clemente triumphs in wild battle to the finish
SAN CLEMENTE - San Clemente sophomore Michael Bott was perhaps his own worst enemy during a CIF-SS Division 2 boys tennis semifinal against Arcadia on Wednesday.
Battling leg cramps deep into his third set against freshman Nicholas Figueira, Bott’s limited mobility led to a heightened number of unforced errors, most of which came in deciding points.
With Arcadia leading, 9-8, San Clemente needed Bott to win the day’s final match. After several long battles, he delivered the victory that gave the Tritons a 9-9 (79-74) win and set up an all-Orange County final against Santa Margarita on Friday at Claremont Club.
The Eagles defeated Sage Hill, 14-4, on Wednesday.
“I’ve cramped up before and I’ve lost, so it was a good barrier especially because it’s a big match,” said Bott, who won the last match, 7-6 (7-3). “(Figueira) didn’t miss, he made me run a lot … but I pulled through and it feels good.”
Knowing the strength of Arcadia’s doubles teams, San Clemente coach John Stephens figured his singles players would have to win at least six sets in order to have a shot at moving on to the final.
Despite losses, Bott and Whitaker wore down Arcadia’s No. 1 Charles Deng with long sets. The result was a critical sweep of Deng by San Clemente’s No. 3, Jay Yeam, who won his sets, 6-1, 6-0, 6-0.
“We’re a great package because we have three guys who can really play,” Whitaker said. “We can wear people down and we can create marathon sets. We back each other up well.”
Bott and Billy Whitaker each went 2-1.
San Clemente (17-2) took two singles and two doubles sets for a 4-2 lead after the first round of matches.
The Apaches (21-1) swept the Tritons in doubles in the second and third rounds to take the lead, leaving it up to San Clemente’s singles to sweep for the win.
Ryan Murphy and Caden Culp earned big points in the third round despite falling, 7-5.
Whitaker and Yeam both earned 6-0 set wins to help the Tritons claim the lead in points. At the time, Bott was down, 3-2, and developing leg cramps.
His perseverance and patience were as big as his slicing backhand and devastating forehand in helping San Clemente to the finals.
“That was a total gut check on his part. He knew that the match was on his shoulders,” Stephens said. “It’s a huge victory.”