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Lourdes doubles team salvages third

Staff report

BURNSVILLE, Minn. -- One point away from a loss in the final high school tennis match of his career, suddenly senior Paul Johnson did care.

Even if this was for third place in the state Class A tournament, and not the championship that he and Rochester Lourdes doubles teammate Ben Habermann had their hearts set on.

"Going into the third-place match I really didn't care what happened," said Johnson, who teamed with Habermann in the final two rounds of the state tournament Friday at Northwest Athletic Club. "I'm not sure how (Habermann) felt, but I was so distraught by our first match (Friday, a 6-2, 7-5 loss to Blake's Jonathon Lebedoff and Ben Crane in the semifinals). We were expecting more than to be playing for third."

But on the brink of seeing his high school career end with an uninspired flameout, something clicked in Johnson. This, after all, wouldn't have been just a loss had he and Habermann not regrouped. It would have been a decisive, and even ugly one. They'd dropped the first set 6-2 in the third-place match with Blake Duden and Josh Malwitz of Blue Earth Area, and trailed 5-4 in the second one and down 40-love with the opposition serving.

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Credit Habermann, a junior, with jump-starting Johnson's competitive spirit and in the end saving them from a sad ending.

"Ben then made a great return, and I decided then that I should make one to," Johnson said. "All of a sudden, I cared again. I decided as long as we were going out, that it might as well be by finishing third rather than fourth. I wanted to go out in my last high school tennis match with a win."

Johnson, now fully inspired, got his wish. He and Habermann, who played No. 1 and 2 singles all during the regular season, pulled off a bit of a Houdini act, escaping with a win in that 10th game of the second set, and in the end claiming the set in a tie-breaker. Then, they stayed on top of their games just enough to also win the second set 7-5, giving them the match, and third place in the state.

CLASS A

SINGLES

Semifinals -- Peter Torgrimson (Marshall) def. Chi Pham (Blake) 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (8-6); Tony Larson (Long Prairie-Grey Eagle/Swanville) def. Jared Novotny (Winona Cotter) 6-3, 6-3. Finals -- Torgrimson def. Larson 7-6 (7-5), 6-4. Third place -- Pham def. Novotny 7-5, 6-4.

DOUBLES

Semifinals -- Jonathon Lebedoff/Ben Crane (Blake) def. Paul Johnson/Ben Habermann (Lourdes) 6-2, 7-5; Alex Clark/Brandon Fenn (Breck) def. Blake Duden/Josh Malwitz (Blue Earth Area) 6-2, 6-3. Finals -- Clark/Fenn def. Lebedoff/Crane 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (7-4). Third place -- Johnson/Habermann def. Duden/Malwitz 2-6, 7-6 (7-2), 7-5.

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Lipinski 2nd in Class AA

Winona High's Brian Lipinski saw his unbeaten season snapped in the state Class AA finals at Northwest Athletic Club 98th Street in Bloomington.

Lipinski, who had won his first three matches in straight sets at state, fell 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 to Minneapolis South's D.J. Geatz. Both players are seniors and both are bound for the University of Minnesota to play tennis in the fall.

CLASS AA

SINGLES

Finals -- D.J. Geatz (Minneapolis South) def. Brian Lipinski 5-7, 6-1, 6-1. Third place -- Nick Edlefson (Eden Prairie) def. Charlie Seltzer (Edina) 6-2, 6-4.

DOUBLES

Finals -- Mikey Kantar/Sion Wilkins (Minneapolis South) def. Tom Ahlstrom/Andrew Tulloch 6-1, 6-2. Third place -- Andy Spilseth/Ross Devor (Orono) def. Peder Engelstad/Austin Seaverson (Bemidji) 7-5, 6-4.

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