DAILY JOURNAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
Top-ranked defending champion Center Grove won Friday’s sectional at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin, edging Perry Meridian by five strokes.
Center Grove won with a team score of 295. Perry Meridian tallied a 300. Franklin, with a 314, was third by virtue of a fifth player’s score to break a tie with Franklin Central.
The top three teams qualify for Thursday’s regional at Champions Pointe Golf Club in Henryville. The team sectional championship was the Trojans’ 18th overall and sixth in the past seven years.
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Center Grove, which has been ranked No. 1 most of the season, was paced by freshman Noah Gillard, who carded an even par 72 and finished in a tie with Greenwood freshman Eric Moenkhaus, Franklin Central senior Brady Vaughn and Perry Meridian sophomore Nick Osterburg.
Osterburg earned medalist honors by winning a playoff. But Gillard had not regrets about his play.
“My ball-striking was really good today,” Gillard said. “I finished with four birdies and hit the fairways and greens like you’re supposed to. I just try and relax, have fun and do my best.”
Center Grove led from start to finish, winning its third tournament in four days, including the Johnson County Championship on Tuesday.
Senior Christopher Heck had a one-over par 73, and senior Zack Carrabine finished with a 74.
“I got off to a great start and was two-under after the first three holes,” Heck said. “I feel like I hit the ball really well, probably the best I have all year. The sectional is all about survive and advance. As coach (Jim Williams) told us, you can’t win a tournament in the first few holes, but you can definitely lose one.
“We’re going to stay humble in this journey. Tomorrow is a new day, and anything can happen in a state tournament.”
Sophomore Ethan Shepherd shot a 76 for the Trojans, and senior teammate Austin Crowder had a 77.
Franklin had a solid round, with junior Blake Andrews leading the way with a 76.
“I got off to a great start and had a 37 on the front nine including two birdies,” Andrews said. “It was good there was no wind out there, so I was excited about that.
“We accomplished our goal of getting the team to the regional, and coach (Curt Holcroft) keeps reminding us to play our game and keep it together.”
Senior Jake Hash, an individual regional qualifier last year, came in with a 78, followed by Matt Jordan (79), Javan Johnson (81) and Austin Barhnizer (82).
In the final team standings, Indian Creek (356) was eighth, Edinburgh (417) 10th, Whiteland (420) 11th and Greenwood Christian Academy (450) was 13th.
Individuals advancing to the regional without their teams include Moenkhaus of Greenwood, Vaughn of Franklin Central and Roncalli junior Brayden Stegemiller.