Flaniken brothers win doubles title

Facing the end of his high school tennis career Tuesday, John Flaniken received a word of encouragement from his younger brother Jim as the two sat on the bench with a 4-1 deficit.

“John, we’re still in it. It’s not over yet,” the younger Flaniken said he told his doubles partner and brother.

The duo lost the next game in the final set of the Class 6A No. 1 doubles championship, but rallied to win the set, 7-6 (4) and win only the second state tennis championship by a Pelham athlete.

“Even when they won that game at 5-1, I still knew if we lose this game, it’s over, we might as well give it our all, and be as smart as we can. Both of us started playing a lot better at that point,” Jim said.

The match was a battle for the Flanikens, who won the first set in a tiebreaker, 7-6 (5) and dropped the second set, 6-4.

“That’s probably the most exciting match I’ve ever been a part of, coming back form 5-1,” said John, who won the No. 2 singles title in 2006. “It means a lot to go out as a senior to win my last high school match. It’s even sweeter to win it with my brother.”

John will graduate in May and move on to Samford University as a tennis walk-on, while Jim will continue the run of having a Flaniken at No. 1 for the Panthers. Oldest brother Ian was Pelham’s leader before John.

“It’s great trying to follow in John’s footsteps. It’s really fun to always have a good picture of how I should play,” Jim said.

John will compete next in the spring closed tournament in Mobile next weekend, while Jim said he’s looking at the schedule to determine any summer tournaments he’ll play.