KINGSTON — The winning shot came on a laser-like return from Keller McGuirrin, a rocket into the far corner well out of everyone’s reach.
Like a lot of the district title match, Wyoming Seminary couldn’t do much about it.
The Scranton Prep team of McGuirrin and Pete Kazmierczak outgunned Sem’s top-seeded team of Henry Cornell and Matt Cartwright 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to win the District 2 Class 2A championship Thursday at sun-soaked Kirby Park.
“We just gave them opportunities,” Cartwright said, “really, gave away mistake points.
“Too many freebies.”
Cornell and Cartwright made their run to the finals pretty much a free ride, sweeping through two early rounds of competition Wednesday, then downing Scranton Prep’s Tony Kutz and Chris Roe, 6-2, 6-2 in Thursday’s semifinals.
That set up the championship showdown with Prep’s second-seeded team of McGuirrin and Kazmierczak, who outlasted Sem’s Chris Kim and William Xu, 6-1, 7-6 (9-7) in the other Class 2A semifinal.
The title showdown turned into a test of wills, with both teams showing both flashes of brilliance and bumbling errors.
Cornell went off on a run of three consecutive aces to break a 4-4 tie in the second set, propelling the Blue Knights into a third set. He also battled the sporadic wind gusts a bit, watching his serve desert him at times.
And while McGuirrin’s hard, well-placed returns had Sem scrambling at times, he also smoked a handful straight into the net.
In the end, though, a match that lasted nearly two hours seemed to wear down the Sem duo, who couldn’t quite rally to force a tiebreaker in the third set.
“We kind of wish the outcome was different, but it was still a good match — a long one,” Cartwright said. “We gave it our all.”
Along with that, they gave the tennis fans at Kirby Park a show.
With Cartwright’s lightning-quick play at the net Cornell’s deep, angled returns, the Sem team stood up to Kazmierczak’s power serves and McGuirrin’s well-timed winners.
And trailing 5-3 in the final set, Cornell gave Sem hopes of a spirited comeback with a slicing return that handcuffed Prep and pulled the Blue Knights within 5-4.
It ended in the next game, though, as a few Sem returns went awry before McGuirrin’s powerful return put the title around Prep’s neck.
“They just played better, really,” Sem coach Allison Joanlanne said of the Prep duo. “My guys just made some errors, double-faulted, really didn’t stay intense enough to pull it off. They played well. But they had a lot of competition this last match that’s better that’s better than what they did see the whole tournament. They just couldn’t pull it through.”
Not that Cornell and Cartwright didn’t try.
After quickly falling behind 2-1 in the first set, the Sem partners captured two straight games to forge a 3-2 lead before watching Prep win the next four games. Sem also fell behind 3-2 in the second set, but stormed back to win four of the final five games.
And facing elimination while falling behind 5-3 in the final set, Cornell and Cartwright found enough energy to force one more game by pulling within 5-4.
In the end, though, Sem pulled up just short of a district title, after falling in the team title match and also in the district singles championship.
“It was good, we made the finals of all three,” Joanlanne said.
“It was a good season,” Cartwright agreed. “We had some good players, some good wins. We didn’t finish where we wanted to finish. But we’re looking ahead to next season.”