NEWPORT BEACH — A tiebreaker here and a tiebreaker there, and the Corona del Mar High boys' tennis team could have pulled off the upset of the first day of the 12th annual National High School All-American Tournament.
In the end, the breaks — of serve or otherwise — didn't go the Sea Kings' way.
They battled but fell to No. 4-seeded Bellarmine Prep of San Jose, 6-2, in a tournament quarterfinal Friday afternoon at Palisades Tennis Club. The loss came after CdM defeated Palisades, 5-3, in its first-round match at Costa Mesa Tennis Center.
Corona del Mar will play Peninsula in a fifth-place semifinal at 8 a.m. Saturday, at The Tennis Club Newport Beach.
CdM did more than scare Bellarmine. The unseeded Sea Kings had the match in their grasp during the singles portion, which featured five pro-sets (first to eight games).
Georgetown-bound senior Shane Korber was done first, routing Bellarmine senior Garrett Taylor, 8-0, in his singles set. Korber said Taylor had actually defeated him the previous year, when the Bells beat the Sea Kings in the first round of the All-American Tournament.
Korber went to go root for his teammates. Several had leads, but by the end Bellarmine had won each of the other four singles sets to grab a 4-1 lead with three doubles sets remaining.
"Pretty much every singles match was close and could have gone either way," Korber said. "We had a chance, at one point, to go up 4-1 in the singles. Instead, we were down, 4-1. A bunch of matches turned around."
Senior Ismaen Aboubakare had a 7-4 lead on Bellarmine's Rohan Shankar. But Shankar stormed back to win three straight games, forcing a tiebreaker, which he also won.
"I think it was 6-1 at one point, then he just started zoning," Aboubakare said. "He didn't miss. His forehand was easy to attack, but toward the end he was making more shots than I was."
The Sea Kings scurried over to watch the match at No. 2 singles, where CdM freshman Carson Williams also held a late lead on Bellarmine's Trevor James before falling, 8-6.
Because of Korber's dominance, the Sea Kings were still relatively close on games despite their 4-1 deficit. If they could win all three doubles sets, they'd likely have enough games to win on games.
Aboubakare and sophomore Alec Adamson won their doubles set to pull CdM closer. But Taylor and Shankar shut the door, jumping out to a 5-0 lead on Korber and Williams and winning, 8-3.
With the match already decided, CdM Coach Brian Ricker then watched his normal No. 1 doubles team, Carter Wheatley and Alex Murray, battle before losing in a tiebreaker.
Ricker knows the tournament format doesn't favor the Sea Kings, known for their doubles, but he said he was happy with his team's effort.
"We lost two tiebreakers and we looked pretty good on games," Ricker said. "The match was closer than the score. All in all, I thought it was a good day of tennis. I see some of our kids getting better by the match, specifically Carson getting used to playing the bigger hitters and older kids. He's losing so he's upset, but I see every match getting better and better, which usually happens with freshmen."
Adamson had the big win in the morning match against Palisades, the two-time defending L.A. City Section champion. The order was reversed for that match — doubles, then singles — and Adamson was the last match on court.
CdM was ahead in sets, 4-3, but the games were tied at 45-45. Adamson's set with Palisades' Max Licona would prove decisive, and he won, 8-5, to help the Sea Kings secure the victory.
Korber and Zach Williams also won their singles sets. The teams of Aboubakare and Adamson, as well as Wheatley and Murray, came through for doubles victories as well.
"We got a good win under our belt and we had a chance to beat a team we weren't supposed to beat," Korber said. "We couldn't ask for anything other than that."
The Sea Kings didn't ask to play Peninsula for the third time in a week. They had an unofficial match in Palm Desert last Saturday and also played Tuesday at CdM, with the Sea Kings posting an upset win.
The winner will play either Rancho Bernardo or Monte Vista in the fifth-place match at noon, also at The Tennis Club.
Top-seeded defending champion Menlo will play Bellarmine Prep in one tournament semifinal Saturday at 10 a.m. at The Tennis Club, with No. 2-seeded University against No. 3 R.J. Reynolds of North Carolina in the other. The final is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, at Palisades.