WEST LAFAYETTE-The East Liverpool golf team took a strong first step in returning to the state tournament with a first place finish at the Div. II sectional on Monday at River Greens Golf Course.
Twenty-four teams competed, with the top six advancing to next Monday's district tournament also held at River Greens. The Potters recorded a total of 303 to edge second-place John Glenn by four strokes. It was their second straight sectional title. The other district qualifiers were: Indian Valley, Cambridge, Tuscarawas Valley and Coshocton.
"We came out an played really well today," East Liverpool golf coach Ben Wright said. "We had some good teams in contention today and we needed to score well in order to win."
Taking advantage of soft conditions, Isaac Davidson fired an even-par 72 to lead the Potters. Right behind him was Blake Prince with a 74, Matt Hildich with 78 and Joey Cilone with a 79. According to Wright, Hildich's score was the big key for the Potters.
"Matt was huge for us," Wright said. "We were one of the last groups out, and when he was on the back nine, we were pretty sure that he needed to stay in the 70's for us to win. That was the best tournament of his high school career."
Hildich, a senior, started off hot, a birdie on the ninth hole to go one-under on his round. The back nine was a test of survival. Hildich steadily dropped shots, but was able to hang on for his 78. For Wright, the pivotal moment occurred on the 17th hole when Hildich drove the ball deep into the trees but was able to salvage a bogey.
"There are such things as good bogeys and that was one," Wright said. "He did a good job at just getting his ball back into play and minimizing the damage."
For Wright, winning the match-not simply advancing-was key because that places the Potters in the first group out in next week's district match.
"There will be some tough teams from Columbus that we face next week, and it will be great to be in the first group and be able to post a score."
The Potters will tee off at 10:40 a.m. next Monday at River Greens in West Lafayette.
Minerva (366) was the next highest local team, finishing 13th behind an 87 from Jantsen Locke. Beaver Local finished 16th with a 374, the Beavers were led by Hayden Moore with a 90, while Landon Palma had a 92, Duncan Hildebrand 95 and Quintan Carr 97. Indian Creek (389) finished 19th and Edison (406) came in 21st.