The Menlo School boys golf and tennis teams are in position to challenge for Central Coast Section championships over the next few days after both earned the opportunity on Wednesday.
With senior Andrew Buchanan firing a 1-under 70, the Menlo golf team qualified for the section finals next Tuesday by finishing fourth at the CCS Regional II at Rancho Canada (West) in Carmel Valley. The Knights shot a team score of 397 to make the cut.
In tennis, Menlo advanced to the championship match of the CCS Team Tournament for the 15th time following a surprisingly easy 17-1 romp over 2012 runner-up Bellarmine.
While reaching the finals on Friday at Courtside Club in Los Gatos (12:30 p.m. start) is no surprise, it definitely will have a different feel to it. For the first time, the top-seeded Knights will be facing Serra.
The third-seeded Padres (19-1) will be playing in the finals for the first time in school history. Serra, with its deepest team ever, rolled into the title match with a 12-6 victory over No. 7 seed Saratoga at Los Gatos Swim & Racquet Club.
Menlo (23-1), meanwhile, heads into the finals following one of its most dominating victories over No. 4 Bellarmine (21-4), which had played in the title match three of the past four years.
"The sets were not very close, except for a couple of 6-4s," said Menlo coach Bill Shine, who improved to 402-42 in his 17th year with the Knights.
The Menlo senior class, meanwhile, improved to 106-2 and will be favored to add to the positive side of that total Friday as the Knights will be seeking their fifth straight section title and 12th since winning their first in 1998.
"This is the deepest team I have ever had," confirmed Shine, who has six seniors among his top 10 players.
That was evident as senior Andrew Ball played only once in the round-robin format while No. 1 Richard Pham and No. 2 Daniel Morkovine earned a rest after playing just twice.
Shine had his doubles teams of Victor Pham-Lane Leschly, David Ball-Vikram Chari and William Boyd-Michael Hoffman all play three times. The closest match was a 6-4 win by Ball and Chari in the final rotation and with the match's outcome already decided.
In golf, Menlo will be in an underdog role in Tuesday's section finals at Rancho Canada, even though Buchanan will be defending his individual title.
Buchanan, who tweaked his back at the WBAL Tournament last week and had to withdraw before finishing, showed he was back on his game with seven birdies while tying for second overall.
On a windy day that played havoc with distance control and led to higher scores, Buchanan said he was disappointed with his overall round -- it included four bogeys and one double-bogey -- but was happy to finish birdie-birdie. On the 18th hole, he ripped a 310-yard drive before dropping a 65-yard wedge shot to within eight feet of the pin and making the putt.
Menlo's Ethan Wong shot 76, William Hsieh shot 80, Riley Burgess had an 85 in his first CCS trip while hitting only three fairways and Max Garnick carded an 86 to round out the scoring. Wong had a key birdie on the eighth hole after hitting a big drive and putting his 9-iron to within three fee for a tap-in birdie.
"The team really came through," said Wong, "and we will be ready for next week."
Pinewood shot 406 and tied for seventh, but the Panthers' Trevor Hernstadt shot 75 and qualified for the CCS finals as an individual.
Sacred Heart Prep's offense came alive as Mike Covell and Chris Lee combined for six hits, five of them for extra bases, as the Gators pounded out 17 hits in a 15-2 victory over host Harker in a West Bay Athletic League game Wednesday.
The victory kept the Gators (8-1, 17-9) tied for first place with Menlo heading into Friday's regular-season contest at King's Academy.
Lee had four hits, including two doubles and one triple, while Covell slammed a homer and double and drove in five runs. Nick Sinchek and Fabian Chavez also had doubles as the Gators produced seven extra-base hits. That made it easy for starter Will Nahmens and relievers Robert Larson and Will Johnston, who combined on a four-hitter.
In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton kept its CCS hopes alive with a 4-1 victory over visiting Aragon. Junior Erik Amundson fanned 10 batters while allowing just four hits over six innings as to pace the Bears (7-6, 17-9). Aragon fell to 4-9 (11-13).
With the victory, M-A held onto a share of fourth place in the Bay Division with Half Moon Bay.
Aragon mounted its biggest threat against Amundson in the sixth inning, when it loaded the bases with two outs following three walks by the M-A right-hander. On his 118th pitch of the game, however, Amundson induced the Dons' No. 9 hitter to bounce into an inning-ending groundout. The victory improved Amundson's record to 6-2, and lowered his ERA to 2.32. He leads the team with 72 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings pitched.
Sophomore AJ Lemons closed the game out for the Bears, surrendering one run on three hits while striking out two Aragon batters.
Third baseman James Kollar-Gasiewski led M-A's offense with a two-run single and two walks, while Amundson and DH Brett Moriarty also drove in runs for the Bears. Senior catcher Charles Grose had an infield hit and two walks, while center fielder Charlie Cain reached on a bunt single, scored two runs, and stole three bases. Shortstop Alex Aguiar had the Bears' only extra-base hit -- a third-inning double, his ninth of the season.