Drake, Hardin win state championship
Russellville seniors defeat Walker 6-4, 6-4 in No. 2 doubles
MONTGOMERY – Russellville seniors T.J. Drake and John Tyler Hardin went out on top as the Golden Tigers' No. 2 doubles team captured the Class 5A state championship at Lagoon Park Wednesday.
Drake, who won the No. 1 singles title in 2007, and Hardin teamed up to defeat Walker's Matthew Prevost and Jannie Westerman 6-4, 6-4 to bring home Russellville's only doubles title in school history.
The Russellville duo reached the finals by beating John Carroll in the opening round, Briarwood in the quarterfinals and Sylacauga in the semifinals, while Prevost and Westerman, who won the doubles championship last season, received a first-round bye and defeated UMS-Wright in the quarterfinals and St. Pauls in the semis.
Drake, who plans to walk-on at Mississippi State this fall, plays No. 1 singles and is a fifth-year starter for the Golden Tigers, while Hardin plays on the No. 6 court and has started the past four seasons. Russellville has won the Class 5A, Section 4 championship for the past three seasons.
Russellville coach Jimmy Rea said Drake and Hardin, who hadn't played doubles together before this season, complement each other's games.
"T.J. and John Tyler played well throughout the tournament, and I'm proud of them for winning a state championship," Rea said. "They served well and volleyed great, and they did a good job of keeping Walker off-balance in the finals.
"They just mesh well together – in doubles you have to put players together that play well together. T.J. returns better from the forehand, while John Tyler is better from the other side."