Thompson boys claim state championship, girls finish runner-up

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

PELHAM – The last two years have had their share of heartbreak for the Thompson boys’ bowling team, but all was forgotten on Friday, Jan. 24, when the Warriors claimed their first state championship in school history.

After falling in the semifinals the last two years and the quarterfinals the year before that, the Warriors were able to punch a ticket to the state tournament, and this time around, not even a broken thumb of the bowling hand of star bowler Landon Masters could deter them from the coveted title.

With wins against Northridge, Gadsden City and Hillcrest in the first three rounds of the state tourney, Thompson came out in the championship match and picked up a dominant 1,565-1,431 victory to claim the Blue Map.

“It means a lot to me personally,” Masters said. “I broke my thumb a week ago, so for me to come out here and do what I did was special and I know the seniors wanted this for their senior year.”

Masters’ solution to the broken thumb? A bunch of wrap on his left hand, which is his bowling hand.

But it didn’t impact the junior’s ability. He not only finished third in the individual standings behind teammate Jacob Acker in second, but played a major role in helping the Warriors pull off four consecutive wins for the championship, including bowling the final frame of the year to complete the run.

“It’s wild, it’s really wild,” Masters said. “We came into this season knowing we had a shot and we just capitalized on it.”

Masters also hinted at the experience of the last few years and the desire that pushed them.

“The experience played a big factor,” Masters said of the team having been to the state tournament before. “We always usually make it to the semis and can’t get further than that, but that experience helped us punch through and get here.”

In the championship match, Thompson got off to a strong 84-pin lead after posting a score of 989 in the traditional game, while Sparkman only managed 905.

That gave a team that didn’t need a cushion, some breathing room. Knowing they had a chance to really take command of the match entering the baker games, the Warriors came out and put together a 174-149 win in the first baker game to take a 1,163-1,054 advantage.

They continued to extend the lead in the second baker game with an effort of 175-166, which pushed the advantage to 1,338-1,220. That put the Senators in a 118-pin hole, and while it looked like they may win the final game, Masters closed it out with a strong effort to lift Thompson to a 227-211 victory in the game and a 1,565-1,431 win in the match.

Acker also played a crucial role in the Warriors’ first championship and also finished second in the individual standings with a total score of 685 on the seeding day of the tournament a day earlier. He bowled games of 168, 280 and 237 to earn that position, while Masters bowled games of 244, 201 and 232.

Acker is also a junior, which puts two of the best bowlers back on next year’s team.

“It feels great,” he said. “We’ve been working hard and everybody followed through. All the time of practice, through spares, strikes, everything, it’s all led to this moment.”

Thompson’s girls also put together a special run that saw them beat Hokes Bluff, American Christian Academy and Stanhope Elmore in the first three rounds.

That led to a matchup with Southside-Gadsden for the state championship. The Warriors fell behind early by a score of 975-908 after the traditional game. Despite it being competitive game throughout, that put them in an early 67-pin hole.

The Warriors came out and put together a strong first baker game, however, when Jillian Hulsey put together three strikes in the 10th frame to help them pick up a 225-212 win.

After that, Thompson still trailed 1,187-1,133, but the deficit had been trimmed.

The second baker game, however, was the difference in the final score. Southside came out and put together a 217-164 score in the game, as Thompson struggled early and couldn’t make up for it.

With that lopsided game, the Warriors trailed 1,404-1,297 heading to the final baker game—a 107-pin difference.

But Thompson wasn’t ready to go home quietly. The Warriors put together several strikes in a row and actually led by more than the needed 107 at one point in the final game, but they couldn’t quite complete the comeback.

They posted a score of 230 in the final game, while Southside totaled 152, which created the final score of 1,556-1,527.

Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com.