Stevenson's Ross Putterman and David Packowitz completed a memorable run to a doubles title at the famed Pitchford 32 on Saturday afternoon, and with that they went a long way to proving without a doubt who will be anointed the top seed in four weeks at the state tournament.
The Patriots duo waited nearly two hours to find out who its opponent would be in the finals. The tandem then needed just 63 minutes to finish off Lyons Township with a 6-4, 6-3 decision.
Just moments following the victory, the Patriots found out they'd pulled even with Hinsdale Central for a share second place in the team standings with 54 points. That was 2 more than fourth-place Deerfield and 8 points clear of Oak Park-River Forest (46).
Defending state champion Robert Stineman of New Trier was magnificent for the second consecutive week, setting the bar high for all of those looking to challenge the Stanford-bound Trevian. Stineman roared through a trio of challengers, including 6-2, 6-2 against Deerfield junior Jason Brown in the final.
Naperville North junior Gordon Zhang succumbed to a bout of leg cramps during his seventh-place match with Josh Cogan of Batavia and retired early in the highest medal match at singles in the area.
The No. 2 doubles team of Ryan Buxbaum and Andrew Komarov from Stevenson won a deciding third set tiebreaker over Naperville Central (Lo-Harrison) to earn fifth-place honors.
Barrington's No. 2 team (Ben Adams-Greg Baker) came back to win the consolation title with a 7-6 (4), 6-2 victory over Chicago Latin.
"This was a very good day for Stevenson tennis," said Patriots coach Tom Stanhope, who watched his team climb past Deerfield in the final stages of this two-day tournament, using 4 points from the doubles championship and the 3-set victory from his No. 2 doubles team to pull even with Hinsdale Central at the last moment. "We were very happy and proud of the win by David and Ross, but the other thing that we're so happy about is the great work in the backdraw from our 2-dubs team, as well as Jeremy Bush and Brian Kim and singles. It really shows how much of a team sport (this) is, and how hard all of the guys worked to get our trophy."
After a struggle in a second-round victory over Fremd on Friday afternoon, the Patriots' duo came out blazing against the 5-9 seed Deerfield (Ben Shklyar-Alec Siegel) in quarterfinal play at Buffalo Grove and won 6-1, 6-3. Packowitz/Putterman then drew another 5-9 seed from New Trier and won 6-3, 6-3 to book their spot in the final against the Lyons duo of Jake Elliot and Danny Schuster.
Elliot/Schuster were involved in a 2½ hour, three-set match with No. 2 Taylor Manci-Jason Hainsfurther of Highland Park, which caused the Patriots to wait close to two hours for their eventual opponent.
"You have to worry when your guys are just waiting around, and probably getting a little anxious and maybe too relaxed," said Stanhope, "but we came out fairly strong in that first set, and finally took over the set when we broke Elliot to go up 3-2."
"The wind today was really a factor in how we played, but I served with the wind, and David against it, and that worked really well for us, as did us playing hard to their backhand all throughout the match," said Putterman.
A superb reaction shot up close by Packowitz, followed by a sensational get with his back to the net at full gallop helped the Pats break Elliot. Two games later, the Pats broke Schuster to go up 5-2 before letting Lyons draw to within 5-4.
Stevenson fell behind 15-40 with Putterman on serve but battled back to deuce on two occasions before finishing the set off.
It was all Stevenson in the second set, as the duo was nearly perfect on first-serve percentage. In classic doubles form, they slowly wore down LT with pinpoint service and returns to build a 5-3 lead after a kick-serve from Putterman exploded past Schuster for an ace, and the game.
Minutes later, it was over.
"It obviously means a lot to win a doubles title at a tournament as big as this one, but it's even better to have the success that our entire team had today," said Packowitz.
"Winning a championship here at the 32 usually translates to a state title one month later, but we still have a lot of tennis ahead of us, so we won't get too caught up in that right now," said Putterman.
The same could be said of Stineman, whose post-match interview earlier steered clear of any statements about his chances of a repeating following an impressive victory over Brown.
"I've been very pleased with the way I've played the past two weeks, and it really means a lot to me to win the No. 1 singles title at a tournament which has so much history surrounding it," said Stineman, who dropped last year's 32 champion, Tim Kopinski of Stagg, out of the running with a 6-3, 6-4 victory in the semifinals. "I'll let today sink in for a little while, then turn my focus to the Deerfield Invite next weekend, which is likely to be another great tournament for myself, as well as our team."
While Stineman was cruising in his quarterfinal match with Ben Quazzo (Latin) who later earned a fifth-place medal, Zhang was involved in a marathon two-setter with Hinsdale Central sophomore Sammy Bloom.
Bloom outlasted Zhang 7-5 in a 90-minute first set, then grabbed a 6-2 victory to advance.
Bloom was unable to match Deerfield's Brown in his semifinal, and later lost to Kopinski 6-2, 6-2 in his third-place match.
Zhang was sent to the Prospect site following the loss to Bloom and had to endure a 3-set match. But he was unable to beat fellow 5-9 seed Jake Wilson (Oak Park). Suffering from leg cramps, Zhang retired to an injury default to Wilson, and later to Cogan.
"I really felt that first set against Sammy was mine to win, but I wasn't able to close it out when it was 5-4 when I had (2) set points, and it went to deuce 8-9 times," said Zhang, who stayed along the baseline, as did Bloom, as the two pounded away at each other, with 12-14 ball rallies the norm throughout the match. "The wind was a real factor in that second set, and I thought I did pretty well despite the conditions, but (Sammy) did much better than I (did) with first serve percentage, and that was it for me."
"The biggest difference in that second set was Gordon's serves versus Sammy's," said Naperville North coach Heather Henricksen.
The defining moment of the second set, following an exhausting thrill-ride of a first set, came when Bloom raced from his perch along the back at full speed to catch up to a superb drop from Zhang and hit the winner to hold serve and go up 5-2 before breaking Zhang's serve for the set.