ROCKLAND — The Medomak Valley golf team had already proved it could handle pressure. But how the Panthers aced their biggest test yet left even their coach surprised.

Medomak Valley shot 173 at Rockland Golf Club to win the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Shootout in Class B, earning the automatic bid to the Class B state tournament that goes with it. Gardiner (181) was second, followed by Nokomis (193) and Morse (200).

“Today, we played our best round of the year,” said coach Kevin Richardson, whose team beat its previous low by over 20 strokes. “It was great to see the team perform when it counts the most and under pressure. It was awesome.”

There wasn’t as much suspense in Class A, where Mt. Ararat, led by 38s from Caleb Manuel and Cade Charron, fired 162 to take the Shootout title. Lewiston (182) was runner-up, with third going to Brewer (187) and Messalonskee (192) taking fourth.

“There were a couple of teams today that probably had a shot at it, but I think coming in, we were favored,” coach Gerry Caron said. “We’ve been shooting 160, in the 50s, we’ve been pretty much in the 50s all year. … It would have taken a good score for us to get beat. It worked out pretty good for us.”

Medomak Valley, the third seed in the KVAC South bracket, had already passed some challenges en route to Thursday, including a semifinal win over No. 2 Oceanside. But at their home course — albeit on the back nine, which they rarely play — the Panthers knocked off undefeated teams in Morse and Gardiner, the top seeds in the South and North, respectively.

Carson Murphy shot a 39 in the No. 1 match to lead the way for Medomak, while No. 4 Leighton Winslow carded a 40, No. 2 Sean Sebrey had a 45 and No. 5 Clayton Belcher shot 49. Murphy, Winslow, Belcher and Garrett Hutchins (No. 6, 55) had their best rounds of the season.

“We were definitely an underdog coming in,” Richardson said. “I think that helped take some of the pressure off. … Before the round, we said we wanted to play loose, but focused. We were pretty loose out there.”

Gardiner came in with an 11-0 mark, but saw a few rough holes for its players hurt the chances for the victory. Cody Rizzo shot a 40 to lead the Tigers, while Cam Bourassa shot 44, Drew Kelley shot 46 and Darien Jamison carded a 51.

“My boys were out there grinding and trying as hard as they could,” coach Chad Hopkins said. “To come up short like that, it is what it is. … We were on a roll there and as the season got later and later and the record was still undefeated, I think that was in the back of their minds, and that added that extra outside pressure.”

Hopkins said the chance to experience the uptick in pressure, however, would serve the team well for next week. The rest of the KVAC can secure a state tournament bid at the qualifiers at Natanis Golf Course on Tuesday.

“We are now going to be fired up for Tuesday,” Hopkins said. “I hope that the boys sleep on this and it motivates them. … They’ve already talked about getting another practice round in at Natanis on Monday. Go after it.”

Morse was led by Angus Brown (45), Dom Marco (48), Kaleb Jackson (52) and Tanner Hennin (55). Nokomis got a 39 from Sam Smestad, a 44 from Lindsay Cote, a 54 from Jacob Hawthorne and a 56 from Grady Berry, Shane Shorette and Isaac Klein.

“Today was a little disappointing for us, we were hoping to play a little bit better,” coach Matt Brown said. “The speed of the greens were kind of fast today, and my kids aren’t quite used to that. It was a good pre-tournament for us for qualifiers, and that’s how we’re going to look at it, and hopefully be ready by Tuesday.”

Smestad’s 39 was tied for the lowest in Class B and tied for the third-lowest for the day.

“Today would have been great to have, but it’s not the end of the world,” Brown said. “It’s just another chance for us to compete, which is great. Tournament feel is what’s important.”

Mt. Ararat had little trouble getting that feel figured out. Ben Hickson (42) and Will Kavanaugh (44) joined Manuel and Charron as Eagles scorers.

“We have three seniors, this is their fourth year at this, and they’re very competitive golfers. And the junior (Manuel) that we have is probably one of the best golfers in the state,” Caron said. “He’s just so competitive, and he’s such a practice nut. He’ll go home and, if it’s not dark, he’ll go on the golf course and play again tonight. … He’s very gifted.”

Ben Hellen led Messalonskee with a 45, while Brad Condon (49), Brandon Condon (50) and Duncan Morrill (53) rounded out the Eagles’ figures.

“I think what’s really important is, by getting here, you have two opportunities to try to get to states. You see the amount of pressure that kids are under the first time, they’ll know how to react (Tuesday),” coach Jim Kerschner said. “We have played better than we did today, but it’s a question of one time, you tee it up, you need four really good scores and you never know what’s going to happen.”

Brewer’s Josh Birch had the best round of the day with a 37, while Kolby Brooks (44), Connor Bell (53) and Josh Abbott (53) also scored for the Witches. Lewiston got scores from Parker Thibault (40), Nick Pomerleau (46), Ryan Pomerleau (47) and Logan Tripp (49).

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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