As far as scripts go for a swan song, they don’t get much better than the one Mountain Pointe seniors Kiyoko Hashimoto and Vi Koka delivered in the 2013 badminton singles state championship.
The tournament's top-ranked seeds breezed their way into Saturday's title match showdown at Glendale Independence High School, and, after the pre-match hugs, fist bumps and creative handshakes commenced, the two teammates, best friends and fierce competitors put on a beautiful display of shot-making befitting of the sport’s final showcase of the year.
In the end, though, it was the No. 1-ranked Hashimoto who came out victorious, using a 16-point spurt midway through the first set to take the title match in straight sets (11-3, 11-4).
Chandler's Jenna Scheeland took home third place.
“It was hard,” said Hashimoto, who has beaten Koka all three times they’ve met in competition. “When my coach came over to talk to me in between sets, he was like, ‘How are you doing?’ And I told him, ‘It’s hard.’ I mean, it was really tough.”
Although it wasn’t easy putting her friendship with Koka aside for one match, the win serves as vindication for Hashimoto, who lost in straight sets to Chaparral’s Courtney Foltz in the 2012 Division I final.
“This isn’t as sweet, because I feel like last year would have been the sweetest,” said Hashimoto. “But it’s a good thing I had a second shot. If I was senior and it had ended the way it did, I probably wouldn’t have been happy.
“There was a lot of motivation to push for (the state championship this year).”
For Koka, her final shot at winning an individual title came up just short. However, Mountain Pointe’s valedictorian-to-be handled the loss with grace and admitted she was only disappointed that the outcome wasn’t closer.
“I was just mad it wasn’t more like the Chaparral Invitational,” Koka said. “That was a good game, a good fight. I wish it was more like that.”
Regardless of the outcome, Pride coach Larry Holmes stood high in the gymnasium bleachers beaming from ear-to-ear at the impressive run his two seniors put together.
Holmes, who was very vocal throughout the first four rounds of the tournament, decided to put down coaching hat for the final and instead took in the match like every other fan in attendance.
“Honestly, I don’t know how they did it,” Holmes said. “They’re both best friends and both great players. I don’t even know how to describe it. You want both of them to do well, but at the same time you know one has to win and one has to lose. I’m just proud that they both brought a state title back to Mountain Pointe.”
Led by Hashimoto and Koka, Mountain Pointe will look to win their second consecutive team title when the badminton team state tournament opens up on Oct. 28 at the higher-seeded school. The semifinals (Oct. 30 at 6:30 p.m.) and championship (Oct. 31 at 6 p.m.) will take place at Phoenix Sunnyslope High School.
The 2013 doubles title will also remain in the East Valley, as Hamilton’s top-seeded pair, Tiffany Pariva and Drishti Panse, took down Xavier’s Kirielle Singarajah and Teal Weaver in straight sets (15-5, 14-4).
“We just carry each other forward,” said Panse. “Whenever I’m down, she picks me up. Whenever she’s down, I pick her up. We’re just there for each other.”
Although the newly-crowned doubles champions have only played together for two years, their on-court chemistry was undeniable Saturday.
"Our personalities are different, but they complement each other,” said Pariva. “It just works well, and I’m happy we were able to win this together.”
Pariva and Panse never dropped a set on their way to the doubles crown, and Hamilton coach Lucee Buchanan said it was a testament to their intelligence as much as their chemistry.
“They won because of their smarts,” said Buchanan. “They evolved when they had to. When something wasn’t working, they figured it out and changed. They’re just very smart, I mean these girls are in the top five percent of their graduating class. They used their brains as much as technique and strategy out there.”