DENVER -- After about every other point of his quarterfinal match at the Class 5A state tennis tournament on Thursday afternoon, Jaron Belcher would pull tissues out of his pocket to blow his nose or cough into them.
As soon as the tissues went back in his pocket, though, one could hardly tell the Boulder High senior was ailing.
Belcher rolled through a pair of matches at Gates Tennis Center to lock up his spot in today's 9 a.m. semifinals, where he'll face defending state champion Spencer Weinberg of Grand Junction.
"The last few days have been pretty rough on me, but I'm taking it day by day and trying to get better," said Belcher, who has been sick most of the week. "It's been fun, just trying to enjoy the moment. Last state tournament so I'm just trying to give it my all."
Belcher knows a victory today will take at least his all but is by no means impossible.
He and Weinberg -- a quarterfinal winner over Fairview's Eli Winegardner Thursday -- have played several times. While Weinberg has generally had the upper hand, Belcher comes into the match knowing he beat Weinberg in their last meeting, a three-set decision during a summer tournament.
"Of course it makes me believe that I can pull it out," Belcher said. "But he's a tough player so it could go either way. If I can play as solid as I was today and keep a consistent mental focus throughout the match I feel like I have a strong chance."
Belcher's performance led the way for a Panther squad that reached the semifinals in three out of seven positions.
BHS sits fourth in the team standings with 11 points, while cross-town rival Fairview is tied for the lead with Cherry Creek at 19 and Grand Junction is third at 18.
After dispatching Regis' Tyler Brasel 6-1, 6-1 in the first round Thursday, Belcher topped Chatfield sophomore John Koza 6-2, 6-3 in the quarters by pounding the ball over and over to his opponent's baseline.
"He's playing about as well as he has all year," BHS coach Gale Howard said. "He's really strong."
Boulder senior Harrison Vivas, a state champ at No. 1 doubles last year, teamed up with Levi Chandler to also reach the semis with a pair of victories. The Panthers' No. 4 duo of Luke Jirmans and Sig Poulsen, meanwhile, also reached the semis.
The day didn't pass without some heartache for the Panthers.
Both No. 2 singles player Julian Melcer and No. 3 guy Miguel Sanchez suffered severe leg cramps in their quarterfinal matches. Sanchez had to retire in the third set against Fairview's Ignatius Castellino, while a hobbled Melcer saw a 4-1 lead in the third slip away against Legend's Luke Whalen.
At No. 1 and 3 doubles, the Panthers lost a pair of tight matches.
"It's tough," Howard said. "It happens though. They gave it a lot of hard effort."