Spain Park finishes 2nd at state bowling tournament

Published 5:07 pm Monday, January 30, 2023

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

GADSDEN – Looking to repeat as state champions for the second time in school history, the Spain Park Jaguars came up just shy of the 2023 Class 6A-7A State Bowling Championship on Friday, Jan. 27, but that didn’t take away from another special run for the Jaguars.

Entering the tournament off a Region Championship a week earlier, the Jags earned the top seed following day one of the state tournament and finished with the top two individual finishers.

That led into an impressive elimination day, as the Jags racked up wins of 4-1 in each of their first two rounds of the final day, before heartbreak ensued.

The Jags ultimately outscored Sparkman 1,339-1,267 in the best-of-seven baker game format, but a four-pin loss in the final game led to a 4-3 loss for the Jaguars in one of the most thrilling finals of the sport’s history in Alabama.

Individually, Ethan Lee claimed a state championship for Spain Park after totaling 615 during his three traditional games a day earlier, including scores of 212, 199 and 204.

That edged out teammate Michael Kimble by 11 points, as he finished with scores of 212, 200 and 194 to total 606. Liam Hilson totaled a score of 586 to also finish in the top five at fifth, while Luke Eaton claimed a tie for eighth with a score of 578.

The impressive showing for the Jags on day one led to a total team score of 2,940, which beat Sparkman by 135 points to give the Jags the top seed going into championship day.

They used that confidence to take down American Christian 4-1 (950-789) and Hartselle 4-1 (978-791).

In the championship match, however, the Jags fell into a quick 1-0 hole, but it was the start of a back-and-forth affair between the two teams, who have now won the last three titles in a row and six of the nine all-time in the sport.

Following Sparkman’s 186-145 win in the first baker game, Spain Park bounced back with the best game of the championship match by winning the second game 245-182.

The Jaguars built off of that by taking a 2-1 lead after outscoring the Senators 194-144 in the third game.

Spain Park had another impressive effort in the third game, but Sparkman answered looking to avoid a deep 3-1 hole. The Senators picked up a 211-183 win in the game to even the score at 2-2.

They then made it two in a row with a 178-150 win in the fifth game, which put them in front 3-2 and put the Jags on the brink of elimination.

Spain Park, however, answered in a big way, matching the score of 245 put up in the second game to take the must-win sixth game 245-185.

That set up a winner-take-all seventh baker game.

In an instant classic, the two teams traded blows all the way down to the wire, but it was Sparkman that walked away with a 181-177 victory that decided the state championship.

The Senators accomplished the feat directly after beating Vestavia Hills in the semifinals by five pins in the seventh game.

Despite the loss, Spain Park continues to be one of the top teams in the state since the sport’s inception.