PUEBLO - Both Peak to Peak and Niwot had a chance to come away with gold at the finals of the Class 4A boys state tennis tournament Saturday.
But like anyone who went up against a Kent Denver opponent, they came up short as the Sun Devils played in (and won) six of the seven finals to claim its fourth-straight state tennis title.
Peak to Peak's Brett Finan lost to Casey Ross in the No. 1 singles final 6-4, 6-0 while Niwot's Riley Black was overpowered by Niko Hereford 6-0, 6-0 at No. 3 singles.
"He played super good," Black said of Hereford. "I got this far playing really good and I hoped it would carry over into the finals, but just that I got there in the first place, I'm pretty proud of that."
Finan would face a similar story just two courts over.
He went up against the defending No. 1 singles champion in Ross and before he even stepped on the court was dealing with that fact as a huge mental barrier.
Ross broke Finan's serve in the first game of the match which began to set the tone for the day. But through much of the first set, Finan was able to remain competitive. With Ross constantly on the attack, there were moments where Finan was able to return enough balls and remain patient enough to strike when he had the chance.
Taking four games in the first was an accomplishment all on its own.
"I was coming out looking to win as many games as possible," Finan said. "I like playing against better than me. I have nothing to lose so I play better when I play against people like that."
After taking the first set, Ross turned up the pressure and wasn't going to risk the No. 1 singles title getting away from him.
Only a sophomore, Finan will be one of many players happy to see Ross graduate and move on to the college level. But that still won't guarantee anything as the top singles field is a talent-rich pool that can produce a number of players capable of winning state in any given year.
"There are still a lot guys that Casey took out on his side of the draw," Finan said. "It's still going to be a tough time winning."
But that doesn't mean that a loss in the finals won't push Finan, or even Black, harder come next year.
Coming so close to a win has a tendency to leave competitive players yearning a championship even more so than when they first start.
"I really want to get back there next year and avenge myself," Black said. "I need to learn to keep my head and keep playing my game."
Black's teammates Matt Chavez and Cadan Kammerer lost in the playback finals to finish in fourth place in No. 1 and No. 2 singles respectively. The Cougars finished the tournament in third place as a team.
Dawson ended with a couple of third place finishers in doubles as Cade McClellan and Seth Clemente beat Niwot's Manas Sains and Peter Graham in the No. 2 doubles playback final.
Ryan Otto and Cam Cramer became the only players to deny Kent Denver a win on the day as they beat Alex Baum and Trent Beckman to finish third in No. 4 doubles.
Class 4A boys state championship
At Pueblo City Park
Team scores — Kent Denver 82, Colorado Academy 64, Niwot 38, Aspen 33, Peak to Peak 15, Dawson 15, Lewis-Palmer 11, Valor Christian 8, Evergreen 8, Silver Creek 6. Others: Longmont 0
Singles — 1. Casey Ross, Kent Denver, def. Brett Finan, Peak to Peak, 6-4, 6-0; 2. Jack Moldenhauer, Kent Denver, def. Quinn Berringham, Colorado Academy, 6-0, 6-2; 3. Niko Hereford, Kent Denver, def. Riley Black, Niwot, 6-0 6-0.
Doubles — 1. Stewart/Nassif, Kent Denver, def. Sutter/Pulido, Colorado Academy, 6-4, 7-5; 2. Wimer/Greenwald, Kent Denver, def. Brinker/Aguirre, Colorado Academy, 6-1, 6-3; 3. Savignano/Gold, Kent Denver, def. Dawid/Rademacher, Lewis Palmer, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2; 4. Cuntz/Kuzava, Evergreen, def. Lubchenco/Henry, Colorado Academy 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.
Other local results
Dawson — No. 2 Doubles - Cade McClellan/Seth Clemente def. Riley Mulshine/Cruz Culpepper (Niwot) 7-6 7-6.; No. 4 Doubles - Ryan Otto/Cam Cramer def. Alex Baum/Trent Beckman (Kent Denver) 2-6, 7-5 6-3.
Niwot — No. 1 Singles - Richter Jordaan (Colorado Academy) def. Matt Chavez 6-1, 6-1.; No. 2 Singles - Dillon Leasure (Aspen) def. Cadan Kammerer 6-0, 6-3; No 2. Doubles - Cade McClellan/Seth Clemente (Dawson) def. Riley Mulshine/Cruz Culpepper 7-6 7-6.