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High school tennis playoffs: Flowery Branch boys win seesaw match for first-ever state championship berth
Falcons grind out 3-1 victory at McIntosh
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Nathan Holley of Flowery Branch hits the ball during a singles match in the state playoffs against Rome High School in Flowery Branch, on Tuesday, April 17, 2018. - photo by David Barnes

After a seesaw battle in the Class 5A state semifinals, the Flowery Branch High boys tennis team is headed to the state championship match for the first time in school history after defeating McIntosh, 3-1, on Monday in Peachtree City. 

With the historic win, the Falcons will face the winner of Region 8-5A champion Buford/defending state champ Starr’s Mill at 2 p.m. Saturday in Rome. 

“I jumped up and down and screamed (when we won),” Flowery Branch coach Stacey Smallwood said. “It’s incredible and unbelievable. I’m so elated.”

Added doubles player Gunnar Hetzel: “It feels great. I love this team.”

Jack Thomas got the first win in No. 3 singles (6-4, 6-0) for the Falcons, who received their second win in No. 2 doubles when the duo of Hetzel/Brady McVey won in straight sets (7-6, 7-6). The No. 1 doubles team of John Hollis/Brody Millwood had to win in an extra set — 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (3) — to clinch the semifinal victory for the Falcons. 

Though a trip to the state championship was on the line in the tie-break, the doubles duo was calm.

“We knew going into the tie-break that we were going to win,” Millwood said.

Smallwood, however, felt uneasy watching the deciding match.

“That match was the most up-and-down match I ever been a part of,” Smallwood said. “While watching it seemed like we were going to win, then it seemed like things were not going well. It was nerve-racking and intense at times.”

After the two sets in No. 1 doubles, it took an hour-long third set and tie-break to determine a winner. 

Then, finally, the celebration started.

Now the Falcons turn their attention to the state championship match and a possible rematch with Buford, which beat them for the region championship last month. Hollis said he hopes the Wolves win their semifinal match today because he wants revenge in the state championship.

“It would feel amazing and perfect,” Hollis said.

Thomas, a freshman for Flowery Branch, does not care who his team faces for the state title.

“We are ready for any team,” he said.

Compiled by Marcus Etienne

High school scores can be reported each night by 10:30 p.m. by calling 770-718-3415 or email