WATERVILLE — The George Stevens Academy Eagle boys were one point away — not just once, but five times — from winning the State Class C Tennis Championship on Saturday at Colby College.
But for young GSA freshman Alexander Heilner, the win was just not to be as Waynflete School sophomore Ben Shapiro held off five match points, then went on to down Heilner at third singles to give the Flyers the team title 3-2 over the Eagles.
The marathon battle between Heilner and Shapiro was the only close match of the day for either team.
The Eastern Maine champion Eagles, who took the courts with a 13-2 record, started strong with a 6-1, 6-1 win by sophomore Jasper Adam over senior Waynflete senior Eric Ordway at second singles.
GSA’s first doubles duo of Will Brokaw and Roy Xu downed Owen Deady and Addison St. Onge-May 6-4, 6-3 for the Eagles’ second win.
But the Flyers countered with sophomore state singles champion Patrick Ordway, who bested Johnny Xue 6-3, 6-1 at first singles, and the second doubles duo of Jonathan Tao and Sam Martin, who defeated GSA’s Jason Gao and James Chen 6-2, 6-3.
That left it to the third singles match-up to decide the title.
Heilner got off to a good start, coming back from a 5-4 deficit to defeat Shapiro 7-5 in the first set.
But the Waynflete sophomore evened things at 1-1 with a 6-3 win in the second set.
Heilner jumped in front 4-2 in the third set, then took a 5-4 lead after Shapiro had come up with a service break and a hold to knot the match at 4-all.
Serving to stay in the match, Shapiro lost the first three points, hitting a ball long and then dumping two returns into the net, giving Heilner triple match point.
But the GSA freshman then returned the favor with three straight errors, leaving the score deadlocked at 40-all.
Heilner twice took the advantage, on a perfectly executed lob and an overhead put-away, but Shapiro responded, first with a big serve and then with a passing forehand, to bring the score back to deuce.
Finally, after one more deuce situation, Heilner hit the ball long on a return and the game score was deadlocked at 5-5.
Shapiro then broke Heilner’s serve to take a 6-5 lead.
But in the final game, it was Heilner’s turn to rally from a 40-0 deficit to bring the score back to deuce before coming up short on two returns, giving Shapiro the 7-5 win.