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, 2020-01-17 01:56:15
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER — Bowling isn’t sanctioned by the Indiana High School Athletic Association, but inside Eastown Recreation Center, the sectional champion Jasper Wildcats are gearing up for Saturday’s regional bowling meet.
The boys are 12-0 as a team this year, winning a sectional championship last Saturday at Washington. Jasper is one of five teams that comprise the Blue Chip Conference South, along with Southridge, Forest Park, Northeast Dubois and Washington. Jasper boys totaled a score of 2,379 as a team. Southridge came in second at 2,042. The top two teams qualify for regionals, with Washington making it as a wild card as the closest pins out without advancing. The Hatchets came 34 pins out from advancing.
Bowling is formatted just like other sports — sectional is first, then regional, semistate and state — and Eastown can have standing room only at its venue for matches. Semistate is Jan. 25 at Kokomo, and state is Feb. 1 in Anderson.
Jasper is left to raise its own funds for the team. Bowlers are responsible for selling pizzas from Eastown Recreation as a means to generate revenue. Boys coach Paul Lemond said about 400 pizzas were sold in total. Turnout is higher for Jasper than it is for the others. The boys have 10 bowlers on their squad. The girls have six, and five bowlers make a team. The rest of the Blue Chip Conference South is all coed, but the Wildcats not only survived and orchestrated teams for the boys and girls, both teams won a sectional championship and have a chance to win a regional.
Such a reality got Lemond choked up. He took a tissue to wipe his eyes dry of any tears.
“It makes you feel great with all the support,” Lemond said. “It’s not just me. It’s just the support we get from each individual family. This is my 19th year coaching, just finishing that up, and our support from the parents has been amazing.”
Senior Daniel Berg ended up being the individual sectional champion, and helped the Wildcats nab their first sectional crown since 2017. Fellow senior Jake Bonifer took second, and sophomore Jackson Clark finished in third. Lemond described the three of them as “bowling rats,” saying they are always at the alley. He estimated they spend hours and also sit around and watch others bowl to pick up on other things.
He said the Wildcats will throw a lot of strikes, but picking up spares are the key to winning a regional title.
“Spares for us is kind of like that six-, seven-foot putt,” he said. “You’ve got to make it to win. So, you’ve got to get your spares to win.”
All 10 bowlers compete at sectional. Only five can advance to regionals as individuals, but all 10 can still participate in the team game. There are three games. The top four individuals advance to semistate, and the top three teams of 10 also advance. The person with the fourth-best score meets the person with the third-best score. The winner plays the second-best score, and that winner plays the best score to determine the champion at regionals. Six individuals will advance on the girls side of 15 bowlers.
Bowling begins at 9 a.m. Saturday on the individual side, and then the team competition is at 1 p.m. Individual bowlers play a regular game of 10 frames. The team game is also 10 frames, but it’s Baker Format, where five bowlers will bowl two frames each. Substitutions can be used as well.
Jasper was the only team to have a girls team at sectionals, and, thus, won the sectional by default by knocking down 1,551 pins. The girls are all freshmen, and they have one individual qualifier for regionals: Karleigh Lemond, Paul’s granddaughter. She’s the most experienced of a team that has some bowlers who are new to the sport. Karleigh takes it upon herself to help her teammates on Saturdays and Sundays in addition to the Monday and Thursday practices. She thinks Vanessa Mejia has shown a lot of improvement.
“She started off using just a normal house ball, and they got her a new ball,” Karleigh said. “She’s really worked on her release, and really seen the ball really well, and been very beneficial for the team.”
Karleigh thought she didn’t bowl her best, and was “kind of surprised that I won.” However, she tried picking up all of her spares. She didn’t think she bowled as well as she thought she could, saying she struggled with 10 pins and 7 pins. Karleigh reiterated what her grandfather said on the importance of spares Saturday at regional. She said she bowls an hour a day, but is putting more time in getting ready for regionals.
“I think she just has to stay within herself, not try to overdo things, let the ball roll,” Jasper girls coach Scott Koterman said. “If she strikes, she’ll start striking. But if she starts to get nervous and overthink things, then it’s going to be hard for her.”
Jasper girls have only had one win this year, which came against Forest Park’s coed team. The Wildcats sit with a 1-11 record, but Koterman said if the girls stay with bowling and work on things, there could be potential by the time they’re juniors. Koterman said the goal isn’t to bowl against the other teams, but to bowl against one another. He said this week’s goal is not to bowl a game below a score of 130.
That’s been an average for them bowling in a Baker game. Koterman said they beat themselves if they can exceed 130, and whatever else happens is out of their control. He wants them to be the best bowlers they can be for Jasper girls, and to not look at another team, thinking they can’t beat them.
Koterman doesn’t know who Jasper is facing on Saturday, nor does he care.
“Terre Haute North shot 2,005 in their sectional,” he said. “We shot 1,551. Do I want to worry about 450 pins? I don’t want to think about it. I just don’t want to put that in their heads at all. We have to beat ourselves before we beat somebody else, and not beat ourselves, but improve on ourselves. It’ll come.”
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