Spencer Ahlborn of St. Ignatius and Bridger Mahlum of Bigfork plan to dazzle spectators Saturday at the State B-C tennis tournament.
Both singles players advanced Friday at Playfair Park to face one another one more time - only this time it's on the big stage with a state title on the line. The two have met several times this season.
"I'm excited to play in the finals," Ahlborn said after his semifinal win over Valley Christian's Josiah Petersen. "I think it's going to be an interesting match because we can both play at a really high speed when we get into it."
The last time Ahlborn met Mahlum on the court was for the divisional championship last weekend in St. Ignatius.
Ahlborn, a junior, rallied to defeat the senior Mahlum 3-6, 7-5, 10-6.
"It's going to be a great match," Mahlum said. "We've had some really close matches back and forth and I look forward to facing him again.
"It's going to be entertainment for the people on the sidelines to say the least."
That entertainment begins at 8 a.m. when consolation play gets under way at the Lindsay Tennis Center on the University of Montana campus.
The boys' and girls' singles championship are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. with the doubles finals to follow.
Ahlborn reached the title match with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 win over Petersen.
Petersen had pushed Ahlborn to the brink, holding a 5-4 lead in the second set before Ahlborn catapulted in front to take the win using his punishing serve and quick feet to chase down balls.
"I've never played him before and he almost had me in that second set," Ahlborn said, "but I played through. I've always wanted this and am just excited it's happening now."
Mahlum also dropped his opening set against Conrad's Calen Rice, who lost for the second year in a row in the semis. Mahlum settled down in the second and third sets for a 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 win.
"At first, I was hitting like Barry Bonds on some of those shots, landing a few feet out," he said. "(Rice) was like a backboard, too, hitting everything back.
"We had some long points ... it was one of those matches that came down to whoever could outlast the other and I just happened to be that guy today."
Bigfork's top doubles team of juniors Ryan Gembala/Evan Jordt also moved into the championship to help boost the Vikings' lead in the team standings.
Bigfork (26 team points) holds the top spot, while Loyola (21) is second and Valley Christian (19) third.
The Rams are staying in the team title hunt but will have to rely on consolation play Saturday to contend. Loyola's number of active players rapidly dwindled Friday.
Junior Cade Cross, the Rams No. 1 singles player who was upset by Bigfork's Dylan Reichenbach on Thursday, topped senior teammate Erich Dieziger in three sets then lost to another teammate in Jonathan Finch, a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 win/loss for Loyola.
"It's definitely a bummer that we have to oust one another, but I'm still proud of the guys," Loyola assistant coach Caroline Wade said.
The Rams' top doubles duo - juniors Paul Heffernan and Tobin Blome - won the opening set of their semifinal match in a 7-5 tie-breaker, but Cut Bank's Jace Kimmet and Nate Kavanagh claimed the victory with a 6-2, 6-3 win later.
Chinook maintained the lead in the girls' standings with 22 points, despite seeing both of their top singles players - Loreena Baird and Alysa Brown - fall in the quarterfinals. Brown is still alive in consolation.
The Sugarbeeters will also get a taste of the Loyola boys' Friday when the doubles teammates of Emily Harshman/Sarah Finley and Katie Diemert/Taryn Norby face each other in consolation play.
"Cut Bank is more so the team to beat with a singles and doubles team in the championship, that's a lot of points there and Bigfork, too," Chinook coach Tom McLean said. "As for our doubles teams facing one another in consolation, it's good and bad for us. At least they are both playing on Saturday."
Breanna Bauer and Alexa Cline of Cut Bank and Kelsey Hadley and Jamie Nielson of Baker will play for the girls' doubles title.
Bigfork senior Jade Bosic and her trademark wind up serve overcame a scare in her quarterfinal match with Choteau's Kylie Peebles to move on. She later downed Superior sophomore Cary Chamberlain won 6-3, 6-4 to reach the singles final.
Bosic outlasted Peebles in a 6-6 (3-7), 6-2, 6-6 (7-3) match riddled with tie-breakers.
She will face Cut Bank's Morgan McDivitt, who bounced Townsend's Gaelyn Domino, 6-3, 7-5 in the other semifinal.
The Valkyries are tied with Cut Bank with 16 points apiece for second in the team ranks.
State B-C tennis tournament
at Playfair Park
Team scores -Bigfork 26, Loyola Sacred Heart 21, Valley Christian 19, St. Ignatius 17, Cut Bank 16, Conrad 9, Troy 7.
Singles - Spencer Ahlborn, SI, def. Josiah Petersen, VC, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4; Bridger Mahlum, Big, Calen King, Con, 5-7, 6-1, 6-3.
Doubles - Ryan Gembala/Evan Jordt, Big, def. Jordan Potter/Matthem Bohlken, VC, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5; Jace Kimmet/Nate Kavanagh, CB, def. Paul Heffernan/Tobin Blome, Loy, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-3.
at Lindsay Tennis Center
Team scores - Chinook 22, Bigfork 16, Cut Bank 16, Whitehall 11, Choteau 10, Conrad 10, Darby 10, Baker 9, Townsend 9, Fort Benton 9, Superior 8, Wolf Point 6, Fairfield 6, Eureka 5, Loyola Sacred Heart 4, Troy 2, Chester 1. Also competing - Big Sandy, Forsyth, Boulder, St. Ignatius and Valley Christian.
Singles - Jade Bosic, Big, def. Cary Chamberlain, Sup, 6-3, 6-4; Morgan McDivitt, CB, def. Gaelyn Domino, Tow, 6-3, 7-5.
Doubles - Breanna Bauer/Alexa Cline, CB, def. Emily Harshman/Sarah Finley, Chi, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4; Kelsey Hadley/Jamie Nielson, Bak, def. Miriam Bender/Hayley Finks, Dar, 6-4, 6-2.
Singles - Bosic, Big, def. Kylie Peebles, Cho, 6-6 (3-7), 6-2, 6-6 (7-3); Chamberlain, Sup, def. Michele Schawczenski, Whi, 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3; Domino, Tow, def. Loreena Baird, Chi, 6-1, 6-0; McDivitt, CB, def. Alysa Brown, Chi, 6-2, 6-0.
Doubles - Harshman/Finley, Chi, def. Ashlee Nelson/Dionne Zionne, WP, 6-3, 6-4; Bauer/Cline, CB, def. Vanessa Grossman/Rebecca Nielson, Loy, 6-4, 6-2; Hadley/Nielson, Bak, def. Katie Diemert/Taryn Norby, Chi, 6-3, 7-5; Bender/Finks, Dar, def. Hannah Barrett/Claire Wilkin, Big, 7-6 (8-6), 7-5.