CHANNAHON – Ask any bowling coach when the postseason begins, and they will all tell you it’s about only qualifying for the next round – survive and advance. But as the day goes on and you see you can win a regional title, the competitiveness gets everyone excited.
On Saturday at the Minooka Regional, which was held at Channahon Lanes, 13 boys teams vied for four qualifying spots for next week’s sectional. Six schools separated themselves after the first game, and it stayed that way through the morning’s three games, with Minooka holding a 35-pin lead over Joliet West.
The battle in the afternoon turned to the three Lincoln-Way schools as they went after the final two qualifying spots. The three schools were only separated by 82 pins, with Central in third, East in fourth followed by West after the first three games.
But the big story of the day came in the fourth game as Joliet West bowled a school record 1,278 game, which according to the IHSA website is the fourth-highest game in state history in any match and according to some veteran coaches it may be one of the best-ever bowled in the state tournament series.
The Tigers’ individual scores in that fourth game were Julian Ramos (290), Michael Grether (268), Lucas Pirc (268), Kyle Siksta (248) and Joey Lizzio (204)
That game propelled the Tigers to the regional title with a six-game total of 6,636. Minooka (6,328) was second, Lincoln-Way Central (6,201) took third and Lincoln-Way West (6,053) claimed the final spot over Lincoln-Way East (6,050) by three pins.
“This is our first regional title in school history, and it’s a beautiful thing,” Joliet West coach Reginald Lee said. “It was a great team effort, and these kids have really bought into the program. The have grown together of the last year and really have come together.
“Today, especially in that great fourth game, they were really feeding off each other and found that energy. Something that we haven’t been able to do much this year. We feel confident moving on to sectionals next week and have bowled well at Orland Bowl.”
The Andrew Sectional will be held next Saturday at Orland Bowl in Orland Park with the top six teams and seven individuals qualifying for the state finals.
Minooka coach Derrick Rapsky acknowledge that the Tigers’ huge fourth game had an impact on his Indians.
“I expected to be in the top four today and I’m really happy with our morning three games,” Rapsky said. “But that fourth game by Joliet West definitely took the wind out of our sails. Our kids were watching that score as much as they were watching our own. We start at zero next week, but I’m a little worried about our motivation. We have to maintain it all day long, not just in the morning.”
“Today was a nail-biter, because we knew it was going to come down to the three Lincoln-Way schools for the final two spots,” Knights coach Coley O’Connell said. “Our kids did a great job of not scoreboard watching and just going out and bowling their game. Anything can happen once you qualify because next week at sectionals, everyone starts even.”
Lincoln-Way West coach Scott Jablonski had never experienced such a dramatic comeback as his Warriors were down 96 pins to East heading into the final game.
“Usually, those things happen to us. Other teams come back on us, but today was special,” Jablonski said. “We bowled well all day until the fifth game. I made a substitution for the sixth, and these kids just came together with the heart and competitiveness they have showed all season. We led East by 107 pins earlier in the season at the Lincoln-Way Cup, and they came back and beat us.”
The Tigers’ Lucas Pirc was the individual champion, as he had a total of 1,398. Teammate Michael Grether was second (1,364) followed by Minooka’s Tim Frankes (1,348) and Julian Ramos from Joliet West was fourth (1,337). Central received a fifth-place performance from Alex Nolan (1,331), and Michael North led the Warriors in 11th (1,281).
“This feels great to win as a team and individually,” Pirc said. “We had so much energy today, and it really helped all of us. We know that now we will have that target on our back, but our goal is to get to state, and we are confident moving forward.”
The top-10 individuals, not on an advancing team, also qualified for sectionals. They included Lincoln-Way East’s DJ Armberecht, Josh Adgin and Demitri Przybylinski and Providence Catholic’s Adam Kowalik.