The 2017 portion of the bowling Panthers’ winter season began with a bang, as both squads put up big numbers to defeat the Collinsville Kahoks in Southwestern Conference action.
For the Lady Panthers, the victory was particularly significant in that they were able to knock the Collinsville girls out of the undefeated ranks in conference action and, in the process, take over sole possession of the league’s top spot with a perfect 7-0 record.
For Mike Imes’ boys team, the victory ended a series of sub-par outings and put the OTHS boys back in the thick of the conference race with less than two weeks remaining in their regular season schedule.
The OTHS girls’ win over Collinsville was, arguably, their biggest victory of the season to date. Entering the face-off with the Kahoks, the two teams were undefeated in Southwestern Conference play. Something had to give, and for the Panthers it broke the right way in large part due to exceptional series put together by the freshmen power tandem of Natalie Heltne and Mary Orf with additional power numbers posted by Lauren Tomaszewski.
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Heltne was at the top of her game, firing a 279 in game two and finishing the day with a 713 series. Not far off Heltne’s pace, Mary Orf bounced back from a pedestrian first game to fire 236 and 222 to finish with a 634 series. Tomaszewski started strong with her best game in the first round — 255 — and a 3-game total of 633 pins. The Lady Panthers also got solid efforts from Hayleigh Williams (545) and Maddi Thornton (534) to knock the Kahoks out of the undefeated ranks in their own house — Camelot Bowl.
“Our girls really stepped it up against Collinsville in what was without a doubt our toughest match to this point in the season,” said OTHS coach Garrett Spencer. “We needed to continue to pick up spares all the way through the third game, and our team accomplished that goal. It was a great win — one that we hope will become the rule rather than an exception as we enter the second half of our conference schedule.”
The Lady Panthers extended their solid scoring into this past weekend’s Panther Girls Invitational at St. Clair Bowl. Twenty-two teams competed in the tourney which was played in a three-game format followed by 12 baker games, the top eight advancing to a bracket final.
Still firing on all cylinders after their exhilarating win at Collinsville, the OTHS girls blasted their way to a 197-pin lead after the first three games. The O’Fallon squad finished the first round with a team total of 2799 pins. The Lady Panthers’ first bracket opponents were the Triad Knights. Maintaining their solid shooting, O’Fallon easily disposed of the Knights; however, their semi-final opposition — the Alton Redbirds — finally ended the Panthers’ run. Alton eventually out-pointed Collinsville for the team championship with the OTHS girls finishing in third place.
The OTHS boys’ team experienced some rough sledding leading up to and including the winter break, so their 3154-3081 over Collinsville was a welcome return to form for the Panther keglers. Junior Eli Rosenberg led the O’Fallon charge with a 683 series. Mark Hoerner and Josh Bradshaw pitched in with a pair of 648 series, which proved enough to turn back a Kahok rally in the third game. The victory could not have come at a more opportune time for Imes’ charges, as it moved the Panthers back into a first place tie in the conference standings.
Both squads enter the final week of regular season matches with two conference losses. OTHS finishes this week with a flurry of activity, facing dual matches against Belleville West, Edwardsville and Alton before jumping into IHSA regional tournament play this Saturday, Jan. 14 at Bel-Air Bowl.