Phoenix Xavier Prep’s badminton team faced a scary situation on Halloween night, and it wasn’t just because there was someone dressed like a ghost sitting in the stands.
The top seeded Gators were in danger of allowing No. 3 Phoenix Mountain Pointe to repeat as state champion at Phoenix Sunnyslope High.
The two teams split singles play 3-3 and Mountain Pointe won the No. 1 doubles match for a 4-3 lead.
Xavier’s No. 2 doubles team evened it back up at 4-4 with a victory, leaving the No. 3 doubles teams to decide the outcome.
Mountain Pointe’s No. 3 team of Larae Keso and Lisa Chavez won the first game in the best-of-three duel, 15-10, but Xavier’s Areta Buness and Hayden Riley came up with a 15-0 domination in the second game.
There was one game to go.
Buness and Riley jumped to an early lead and Keso and Chavez could not recover, and the Xavier duo captured the match with a 15-7 victory.
The comeback was the second of the day for Xavier. The school’s girls golf team trailed Phoenix Pinnacle entering Thursday’s final round of the Division I state tournament and came back to win it all.
Xavier golf coach and athletic director Sister Lynn Winsor was on hand to witness the badminton title.
Xavier badminton coach Nancy Meyer was moved to tears by the comeback.
Meyer said she knew that Mountain Pointe, which had defeated Xavier in last year’s title match, “would be tough. They came to win. We knew it was going to be very close and that it probably would take going into doubles.’’
She tried to give Buness and Riley a pep talk after their first-game setback.
“I told them, “We’re in state. You have to leave it all on the court. You need to show up right now,’ ’’ she said.
Buness, a junior who was a semifinalist in singles in the recent state singles and doubles competition, said she and Riley “had to stop panicking. We were not making our shots in that first game. We decided to start playing and were hitting all our shots after that.’’
Riley, the team’s only senior, was happy to wrap up her career on a winning note.
“We stepped up our game. We had better communication. She (Buness) can be a bit shy, so I started calling out (positioning) more,’’ said Riley, who hopes to attend San Diego State.
Mountain Pointe’s Larry Holmes, in his first year as coach, had limited experience with badminton this year (he also coaches tennis), “so it was a good learning experience for me. I had to learn on the fly. All the seniors were great. We hung in there fighting tonight, and I’m proud of the girls.’’
STATE TEAM BADMINTON RESULTS
Phoenix Xavier Prep 5, Phoenix Mountain Pointe 4
No. 1 singles – Kiyoko Hashimoto (MP) def. Areta Buness (X), 11-4, 11-2.
No. 2 singles – Vaishnavi Koka (MP) def. Baani Khurana (X), 11-7, 11-5.
No. 3 singles – Kirelle Singarajah (X) def. Larae Keso (MP), 9-11, 11-9, 11-6.
No. 4 singles – Teal Weaver (X) def. Lisa Chavez (MP), 11-6, 11-1.
No. 5 singles – Mallory Belknap (X) def. Tara Garretson (MP), 11-7, 11-9.
No. 6 singles – Kristen McCann (MP) def. Hayden Riley (X), 6-11, 11-3, 11-6.
No. 1 doubles – Hashimoto-Koka (MP) def. Singarajah-Weaver (X), 15-0, 15-6.
No. 2 doubles – Khurana-Belknap (X) def. Garretson-McCann (MP), 15-8, 15-2.
No. 3 doubles – Buness-Riley (X) def. Keso-Chavez (MP), 10-15, 15-0, 15-7.