As across-the-street neighbors in Richmond, Zach Lewis and Gus Benson could lob tennis balls at each other from their front lawns.
Instead, the friends and neighbors met at Lexington Christian Academy Thursday to decide the 11th Region boys' singles championship.
Lexington Catholic's Lewis defeated Model's Benson 6-2, 6-3 to defend his championship and cement a top seeding in next week's KHSAA state tournament.
Lewis and Benson often practice together, sometimes as doubles teammates and other times against each other.
"He's the toughest competition I've played this year," Lewis said. "He's my next-door neighbor, he's a great kid. I had to play my best to beat him."
Benson's service game was strong, but Lewis countered with a variety of shots that thrilled the spectators and frustrated Benson.
"If I just slip up just a little bit," Benson said, "he's going to take advantage of it. He's obviously very good."
Lewis, who will play college tennis at the College of Charleston next year, was the 11th Region champion in 2011 before making a run to the state semifinals. In both 2009 and 2010, Lewis made the state doubles championship match, and he won the title in 2010.
Lewis said the match against Benson will help prepare him for play next week in the state tournament.
"I think I will be a three seed in state," Lewis said. "I got a lot of experience today. It was a tight match. I think I played consistent and kept the ball in play."
Model came into the final day of the tournament one point behind Henry Clay in the team competition. Benson's loss ended any chance Model had of catching the Blue Devils.
In another matchup of friends, Jullian Mok of Sayre defeated Lexington Catholic's Emily Rizer 6-1, 6-0 to win the girls' championship.
"I'm playing pretty well," Mok said. "I played how I wanted to, but she is a friend, so it was weird."
Rizer and Mok practice and play together often.
"It is harder when you are friends," Rizer said. "But we'll stay friends."
In the girls' doubles championship, Claire Mielcarek and Shae Henry of Henry Clay defeated LCA's Christian Puckett and Meridith Macy 6-2, 6-2.
"They played hard, they played strong and they didn't change their pace," Henry Clay girls' tennis coach Charissa Riley said. "This puts us one step further up to doing well in the state tournament."
LCA had eliminated Henry Clay in doubles competition the past two years.
"We worked really hard in practice to get here," Henry said.
Despite the loss, LCA still came away with the team championship.
The closest competition Thursday was in the boys' doubles finals.
The fifth-seeded Henry Clay duo of Ben Halpin and Luke Yukoski took the first set 6-2 over the top-seeded Lafayette team of Nathan Gillespie and Taylor Harris.
Harris and Gillespie turned things around and won the final two sets 6-2, 6-2.
"We were concerned, but they have been in that situation three or four other times during the season and have always battled back," said Lafayette head coach Derrick Smith. "Our guys played more aggressive and put more balls away. They were really tough mentally and fought back to get the second and third sets."
All singles and doubles competitors that made it to the region semifinals will advance to the state tournament in Lexington next weekend.
The Henry Clay boys and the LCA girls will compete in sectional competition Saturday at Northern Kentucky University against teams from three other regions for a chance to move on to the state tournament next weekend.