The Belleville East bowling team surprised many a week ago when it won the Cahokia Regional with a pin total of more than 6,100.
Led by freshman Abby Gray, who took medalist honors with a total of 1,391 pins, the Lancers used balanced scoring to post a 50-pin victory over Southwestern Conference champion O’Fallon.
“We had the ability to do this. It’s just that with two of our top bowlers being freshmen, I didn’t know if it would happen this year or not,” coach Marcus Barriger said. “That’s our best showing of the year.”
The Lancers will try for a repeat when they host an Illinois High School Association bowling sectional at Bel-Air Bowl in Belleville. A total of 16 teams, including Collinsville, Belleville West, Jerseyville, Alton, Cahokia, O’Fallon and Triad, will compete for a trip to the state finals beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday. The top four teams and top five individual bowlers not on those four teams will advance to the girls state bowling tournament on Feb. 17-18 at Cherry Bowl in Rockford.
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Individual bowlers on qualifying teams automatically qualify to compete individually as well.
The Belleville East Sectional is one of six.
In addition to Belleville East, O’Fallon and Collinsville should contend for a state tournament berth.
The Kahoks, coached by Sean Hay, also topped 6,100 pins last week in their Triad Regional. Led by individual champion Madisyn Juenger (1,363), Collinsville also had Mikayla Block and Katelynn Wirtel finish with totals of more than 1,200 pins.
O’Fallon, with two freshmen and three sophomores in its starting five, is led by freshmman Mary Orf, who had a 1,307 total last week. Sophomore Maddie Thornton (1,233) also had a big day for O’Fallon.
Cahokia is led by senior Cassie Martin (1,291), while Belleville West is led by freshman Haley Dunn, whose 1,347 pin total included a perfect (300) game.
“You have several teams from the Southwestern Conference who have a chance to advance. Then when you add just a terrific team from Herrin into the mix, there are six or seven teams who are coming in here on Saturday thinking that they have a chance of getting out,” Barriger said. “We’re one of those teams.”
Dupo senior and 2016 sectional champion Courtney Argus, Lebanon’s Kaela Brockhahn and Waterloo’s Makensy Umscheid are top individual contenders.