Thompson girls finish runner-up for third year in a row

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

PELHAM – Standing huddled around one another in a dimly-lit Oak Mountain Lanes, Thompson’s girls bowling team repeated to each other, “Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.”

It would have been easy for the Warriors to shed a tear after losing the 2021 Class 6A-7A Girls State Bowling Championship, but they were determined to be proud of what they had just accomplished.

Thompson has experienced its share of heartbreak at the state tournament the previous two years, losing by a combined 32 pins in the previous two state championships, but the Warriors showed up this year and made it to a third in a row. 

Despite losing to Sparkman 1,429-1,292 in the state title to finish runner-up for the third year in a row, Thompson’s bowlers knew they had plenty to be proud of after what they accomplished for the third year in a row.

The Warriors put together one of the best stretches it has at the state championship in the last three years, but they couldn’t overcome a hot-rolling Sparkman team.

The Senators saved their best performance of the three-round state tournament for last when they posted a final score of 1,429 pins in the championship round against Thompson, while the Warriors finished with a score of 1,292.

After losing 1,329-1,326 in 2019 and 1,556-1,527 to Southside-Gadsden the last two years, it marked another tough finish to an impressive season for the Warriors, but also a memorable three years that the bowlers won’t soon forget.

Over the last three seasons, Thompson has had two individual state champions in Jillian Husley and Gracie Connelly and three team runner-up finishes, while Connelly also finished third in this year’s individual competition.

And this year’s team continued the trend in the right direction for the Warriors after a strong first two rounds.

Thompson opened the match against Grissom and won by more than 300 wins to get off to an impressive start.

In the traditional game, which features each bowler bowling 10 frames and combining their scores, Thompson took a 796-575 lead in the opening match.

From there, the Warriors coasted. They won each baker game, where bowlers alternate for one aggregate team score, by at least 29 points with wins of 153-118, 139-102 and 150-131.

That gave the Warriors a 1,238-926 win and a spot in the semifinals.

With the win, Thompson could have been set to square off with Southside-Gadsden, who had beaten them in the state title the previous two years, but instead, Stanhope Elmore pulled off the upset by a score of 1,493-1,418.

That pitted the Warriors against the Mustangs in the semifinals with Stanhope coming off what became the highest score total of any team during the tournament.

Early in the semifinal match, it looked like the battle was going to go down to the wire.

The Warriors trailed for much of the traditional game, but Connelly put together six strikes in a row to not only pull them back, but give them a one-point lead at 865-864 going to the baker games.

That seemed to spark Thompson, who came out and created some separation in the opening baker game with a score of 191-157, which put the Warriors in front 1,056-1,021.

Still, that lead was nowhere near comfortable, as Thompson was in front by 35 pins with two games left.

But in the second baker game, the Warriors continued a strong stretch of steadily extending the advantage when they outscored the Mustangs 183-156 to extend the advantage by 27 more going to the final game.

That put Thompson in front 1,239-1,177—a lead that became insurmountable.

Stanhope picked up a 174-149 win in the final baker game, but the Warriors advanced to the state championship with a 1,388-1,351 win.

Taking on Sparkman, who was coming off a 1,307-1,104 win against Spain Park, the Warriors had actually scored higher the first two rounds of the tournament with a total of 2,626 compared to Senator’s 2,564.

Thompson carried that into the traditional game of the state championship, where the Warriors led for much of the contest, but a back-and-forth end led to Sparkman finishing strong to gain an 867-818 advantage.

But it was the first baker game that truly made the difference in the final score.

The Senators came out confident off of the impressive finish to the traditional game, which led to the best baker score of the tournament when they posted a score of 230.

In turn, Thompson bowled its second worst baker game of the tournament by totaling just 140 pins.

That gave Sparkman a 1,097-958 advantage, which was going to be difficult to overcome.

And the hole got deeper in the second baker game when the Senators followed that first game with a score of 184 in the second game.

With the Warriors slightly shaken at this point, they posted 151 points, which put them down by more than 170 pins.

Trailing 1,281-1,109, Thompson needed a miracle, but even with the team’s best baker game of the championship match, it wasn’t enough.

The Warriors outscored Sparkman 183-148 in the final game but not even a perfect game at that point would have been enough.

Thompson finished the tournament 6-3 in baker games and 2-1 in traditional games. The Warriors will enter the 2021-2022 season motivated to get back and have another crack at becoming the first to break through for the coveted championship.