Jags, Warriors come up just short of state titles

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

PELHAM – Three county teams entered the AHSAA State Bowling Tournament’s final day looking to pick up four consecutive wins to bring home the 2018 title.

The Spain Park boys as well as Thompson’s boys and girls were all at Oak Mountain Lanes in Pelham on Friday, Jan. 26, competing to bring home the coveted blue map.

Unfortunately, all three fell short of that ultimate goal as tremendous seasons ended in heartbreak.

The Spain Park boys came in as the two-time defending champs looking to three-peat and fell in the quarterfinals, while the Thompson girls also made a run to the quarterfinals where they lost to Auburn after finishing in the semifinals in 2017.

But the team to make it the furthest was Thompson’s boys, who made a run to the semifinals.

In a traditional game with all bowlers competing to start the semifinals matchup with Vestavia, the Warriors and Rebels went back and forth with Thompson leading the majority of the way.

Vestavia, however, stormed in front at the end of the traditional match to take a 1,005-964 lead over the Warriors.

The Rebels used that momentum to spark a dominant first two baker games.

They bowled a 246 in the first of three baker games, while Thompson bowled a 175, which put them down 1,251-1,144.

It only got better from there as Vestavia went on to hit five strikes in a row at one point in the second baker game and eventually rolled nine strikes in 12 attempts in the game to outscore Thompson 230-172.

At the end of the game, Thompson trailed 1,481-1,317—a 164-pin difference.

That large margin proved too much for THS as Vestavia held on to win the final game 204-187 to win the semifinal match 1,685-1,503.

“These kids worked very hard all year long,” Thompson boys and girls head coach Chris Hollingsworth said. “Most of them I started with in the seventh grade and have worked them up, so it’s special to see the improvement they keep making.”

Something else that makes the loss more manageable is the fact that Thompson has no seniors on the team, meaning the members on the team will have been to three consecutive state tournaments heading into next season.

“Their just committed to this program and for them to be able to maintain this success really is something special,” Hollingsworth said. “We expect our boys to be even better next year and even have a few more kids looking to move up so we’re excited about the future.”

Rounds 1-2

In the first round of the elimination tournament, all three teams were able to pick up wins.

The Thompson girls, holding the No. 1 seed, took on 16 seeded East Limestone High School and picked up a 1,239-990 win to advance on to the quarterfinals.

Thompson played from in front the entire match by taking a 783-627 lead in the traditional game and not dropping a single game of the three baker games played.

The Warriors’ boys, who were seeded fifth, got a matchup with 12 seed Baker High School in the first round and had similar success to the girls.

They won the traditional game 991-829 to take a 162-pin lead into the baker games. In the baker games, Thompson lost the first 193-188, but won the next two to win the first-round matchup by a final of 1,586-1,342.

Spain Park had the most challenging time in the opening round as they squared off against arch rival Hoover.

After a dominant start in the traditional game and the first two baker games put the Jags up 1,351-1,257, Hoover made an impressive push in the final baker game beating the Jaguars 233-168.

It wasn’t enough for the Bucs to advance, however, as the Jags held on for an emotional win by 29 pins to advance to the quarterfinals.

Getting to the semifinals was the next step for each team, and proved to be a more challenging step than expected for two of the three.

Taking on eighth seeded Auburn High School the Thompson girls team found themselves in a battle and facing elimination.

The Tigers stormed out in front in the traditional game featuring all of the bowlers’ total scores by takin g 699-611 lead.

Trailing by 88 pins heading into the three baker games, a switch seemed to flip for the Warriors as they started things off with a 158-110 first game.

The strong frame brought Thompson to within 40 pins heading into the second baker game trailing 809-769. The Warriors, however, fell into an even deeper hole in the second baker game as Auburn rebounded with a 157-115 score in the round.

The Warriors were able to win the final baker game rather handily by a final of 193-163, but trailing 966-884, the 30-pin win in the final game wasn’t enough to overcome the 82-pin deficit as they fell 1129-1,077 to end their run short of a title.

“To be honest with you, we went in fully expecting to win,” Hollingsworth said of the girls’ hopes. “In bowling it doesn’t take but a few breaks here and there to lose. We are right on the cusp with the girls and expect to come back even stronger next year and make another strong run at it.”

Whether it be the emotions of the first-round win over Hoover or the stress of trying to three-peat, Spain Park’s run at a championship also came to an end in the quarterfinals.

The Jags fell by a final score of 1,670-1,453 as they lost the traditional game 979-889 and all three baker games by at least 38 points.

Despite losing two of their three baker games, Thompson’s boys were able to continue their success in the quarterfinals and pulled away for a 1,502-1,388 win in its quarterfinal match with Hartselle thanks to a 992-828 lead built in the traditional round as they stayed alive.

All three teams have established a strong presence in the state tournament having been here three consecutive years and with plenty of talent returning, they’ll look to make it four in 2019 as the popularity and competitiveness of the sport continue to grow.

Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com