Lincolnshire Stevenson got a taste of what competing in the IHSA State Boys Bowling Tourmanent was all about a year ago with an eighth-place finish in its first trip to St. Clair Bowl.
The Patriots’ second appearance was even more impressive,.
In second place 130 pins behind Lockport heading into the final two rounds on Saturday, Stevenson opened the second day of competition with a 1,263 game and then added a pair of games over 1,100 later in the day to hold off 2015 state champion Rockton Hononegah and win the state title.
Led by individual state champion Zach Singer and runner-up Richy Zenner, the Patriots ended the 12-game competition with 13,361 pins and averaged 222.7 per bowler. Hononegah was second at 13,321, 81 pins more than third-place and host O’Fallon, which earned its third state tournament trophy in the last five years.
But after bowling its 1,263 early Saturday morning, the Patriots weren’t going to be caught on this day.
“I really think getting here last year helped a lot of these kids,” Patriots coach Cody Mathias said. “We were in contention last year and we knew how to handle it this year. But just being here and getting to know the routine and what the state tournament was all about ... these bowlers were ready for it this time. This morning we really wanted to come out and make a statement that we weren’t going anywhere. We let everybody know that we came to win the state championship.”
Singer and Zenner, who trailed O’Fallon junior Andrew Orf heading into the final game, were the main reasons the Patriots are going home with the state title. Singer averaged 241.6 and finished with 2,899 pins, 20 more then Zimmer who was at 239.9 for the event.
Orf, who had series’ of 767 and 663, struggled to a 193 game in his finale and finished with an average of 238.6 and 2,863 pins. Singer had a 244 and Zenner shot 216 in his 12th game.
“This (state title) means a great deal. We knew that this was a possibility if we kept our focus and stayed up as a team. We picked each other up here this weekend and everybody who bowled played a big role in us winning,” Singer said. “Actually I think us bowling so well as a team helped me individually.
“I was so focused on us as a team I wasn’t even thinking about the individual state championship.”
O’Fallon, which was led by medal-winning efforts from Orf (third) and Matthew Toohey (11th) , finished 130 pins ahead of Machesney Park (Harlem) and Lockport, both of whom finished with 13,110 pins to tie for fourth place.
Other local teams did well, too. Cahokia placed seventh with 12, 825 pins, Jerseyville was ninth at 12,747 and Collinsville was 11th at 12,579.
Scott Bovee led Cahokia with a 27th-place finish and an average of 221.9 while Ryan Bovee was 28th with a mark of 221.3.
Collinsville’s top bowler was Clayton Hartman, who finished 16th with a mark of 225.9.
But for the fifth straight year, the top local story at the boys state tournament revolved around O’Fallon. The dominant team in the Southern Illinois, O’Fallon earned its third state trophy in five years. The Panthers were second in 2013 and third in 2014.
“I am so proud of my team. Five straight years of being in the top five in the state finals. Three state trophies. That tells you the types of kids we have in this bowling program,” O’Fallon coach Mike Imes said. “We knew the scores coming in would be high and they were. Three teams in the state tournament averaged 220 or better per bowler. That’s just incredible.
“We averaged 220 as a team and placed third. The team was great all weekend. We just didn’t have everybody on top of their games at one time and so we didn’t post that one, super-big score all weekend. Andrew (Orf) averaged 238 this weekend. He placed third in the state tournament. That’s a great accomplishment. He just had the misfortune of getting on a tough pair of lanes in the last game.”
Other local individuals faring well at the state finals this weekend were Jeff Gump of Jerseyville (placed 21st), Kurtis Murphy of Belleville East (23rd), Jacob Fremd of Jerseyville (25th), Jordan Buske of Highland (28th), Daniel Hummel of Althoff (32nd), Brandon Handler of Jereyville (45th), Tyler Stevenson of Alton (48th) and Justin Hess of O’Fallon (51st).
For the fourth straight year, the metro-east area does have a state champion. Mascoutah High School senior Fletcher Hopkins won the wheelchair division to become a rare four-time state champ. Hopkins, who has been bowling since the fifth grade, said he bowled well as he put up scores of 121, 103, 122 and 123 and finished with a four-game total of 469 pins.