With all five players shooting in the 70s, the Center Grove boys team breezed to the championship of Friday’s Southport Sectional at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin.
The top-ranked Trojans shot a 287, followed by Perry Meridian with 294 and Franklin with 302.
The top three teams qualified for Thursday’s IHSAA regional at Champions Pointe Golf Club in Henryville.
The sectional championship was the Trojans’ 19th overall and seventh in the past eight years.
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Center Grove was paced by junior Ethan Shepherd, who carded a 2-under par 70.
Trojans sophomore Sam Jean was next with a 1-under 71. Sophomore Noah Gillard fired an even-par 72.
“They’ve done an excellent job this year,” Center Grove coach Jim Williams said. “For the last few weeks we’ve been matching a 287 number or better, and the kids found a way to do it again today.
“The depth in our lineup allowed us to make a change in our lineup, and it worked out. We constantly are talking about taking care of each other. If one kid’s down, the next kid steps up and picks up the slack. From a team standpoint, you can’t ask for anything better than that.”
For the second straight year, Perry Meridian junior Nick Osterburg — a University of Cincinnati recruit — earned medalist honors with a 5-under- par 67.
Playing the most consistent golf for the Trojans, especially over the past two weeks, has been Shepherd. Friday was no exception.
“We’re feeling pretty good, confident of how we’ve played the last two rounds, each with a 284,” Shepherd said. “Those were real confidence-boosters of how we felt we were going to play.
“We’re looking to take this thing one step further than last year and win it all.”
Center Grove was runner-up at last year’s state finals.
As for the sectional, Gillard, who got off to a slow start, turned things around in a big way on the back nine and finished in a combined score of 40-32–72.
“I had a little bit of a rough day. I finished with 21 putts, so I decided it was time to make a change, and it worked out,” Gillard said.
A major change it was.
Gillard, from the 14th hole to the finish, used his wedge as a putter.
“I was really upset with myself, so I decided to make the change, and I finished with only 14 putts with it to get to four-under,” Gillard said. “It was a little risky, but it paid off. I’d never done it before but I haven’t been putting well, so I figured it couldn’t get any worse and it really helped.”
Franklin, under first-year coach Chris Kacarab, had four team members shoot in the 70s.
Leading the way with an even-par 72 was sophomore Javan Johnson.
The Grizzly Cubs, who qualified for the regional, also got big contributions from seniors Kodi Duncan and Blake Andrews, who each shot 76. Sophomore Matt Jordan had a 78.
“It was a pretty steady day, to be honest with you,” Johnson said. “I had three birdies and three bogeys. There’s still nerves, but my experience has been the difference from my freshman year.
“Our team has really improved, so it’s going to be really fun to see if we can make it to state”
Roncalli finished fourth with a team score of 313. Although the Rebels team will not advance, their top two golfers will. Sophomore Drew Fleming had a 2-over 74, and senior Brayden Stegemiller had a 78.
The third individual qualifying was Southport senior Chase Cawthorne, who finished with a 75.
Greenwood, which finished sixth as a team with a 352, was led by sophomore Eric Moenkhaus with a 79.
Indian Creek (359) was seventh, followed by Franklin Central (371) and Whiteland (374)
Edinburgh (414) placed 10th, followed by Greenwood Christian Academy (420), Beech Grove (437) and Lutheran (475).