When bitterly cold temperatures Tuesday resulted in the closing of most metro-east schools, it also means the cancellation of practice for most sports teams.
But not the O'Fallon Panthers bowling team, which worked out on its own late that afternoon at a half-empty St. Clair Bowl in Fairview Heights.
"The boys were here on their own working on their games,'' O'Fallon coach Mike Imes said. "This team has a goal of becoming the first (team) in school history to win a state championship.
"I think they felt like they let it get away last year and they are determined to make sure it doesn't happen again.''
The Panthers journey to the IHSA boys state bowling tournament makes one last stop Saturday, as O'Fallon will compete with 15 other teams at the Mascoutah Sectional at Bel-Air Bowl in Belleville.
Session one begins at 9 a.m., with session two set to start at around 1 p.m
One of four sectionals being held at bowling centers throughout the state, the Mascoutah Sectional features entries which qualified at regionals last week in Cahokia, Collinsville, Herrin and LaSalle-Peru. The top six teams at each sectional and top 10 individuals not on those teams advance to the state finals, Jan. 31-Feb. 1 at St. Clair Bowl.
Other sectionals are being hosted by (Chicago) St. Patrick, Rockford (Boylan) and (Tinley Park) Andrew.
Second at the 2013 state finals, O'Fallon's 6,507 winning sectional score was the best in the state. Jerseyville (6,401), like the Panthers a member of the Southern Illinois High School Bowling Conference, had the second-best score and also will be at Bel-Air.
Other top local teams include Columbia, which finished second behind O'Fallon with 6,328 pins, Belleville East, Belleville West, Collinsville, Alton, Granite City and Triad.
"The local teams which should have advanced, did. I'm a little surprised Triad got out and though I don't really know much about Jerseyville, their kids bowling 6,401, obviously bowled very well at LaSalle-Peru last week,'' Imes said. "Now it comes down to one day and six games for a trip to the state finals. Our kids are ready."
Two-time all-state selection Billy Goodman leads the way for O'Fallon, which also got solid regional efforts from seniors Daman McIntire, Josh Brown and Mikaid Stewart.
Regional individual champion Cameron Touchette leads the way for Columbia, while seniors Thomas Peters, Sean Hoyt and Kyle Wells paved the way for a solid third-place finish by East.
The Lancers also will have the advantage of bowling on their home lanes during the sectional.
"It's nice to have the sectional at home. But it still comes down to executing the shot and being able to make the proper adjustments when the lanes break down,'' East coach Marcus Barriger said. "I know I said this last week as well, but our team just needs to stay within itself and not try to do too much. Our bowlers just need to compete as well as they can. If we do that we'll be fine."