The Panther boys bowling team was once again in the hunt for a state title, but came up a bit short in the IHSA finals held over the weekend at St. Clair Bowl, ultimately coming home with a third-place finish.
Meanwhile, the Lady Panthers wrapped up regular season action with a scintillating match that produced a Southwestern Conference championship.
The OTHS boys bowling team hit the St. Clair Bowl lanes last Friday with first-round action in the IHSA state tournament. Coach Mike Imes’ charges shook off a wobbly previous two weeks with an outstanding team effort, which put them near the top of the leader board at the conclusion of day one. The Panthers were paced by senior Andrew Orf, who blasted his way to a 727 series. Eli Rosenberg was the next best OTHS bowler in the preliminaries, posting a total pin count of 674. Junior Mark Hoerner added a 660 series, propelling the Panthers into second place at the end of the day, just 43 pins behind leading Machesny Park Harlem.
Just a few pins out of first place when the finals began Saturday, the Panthers remained hot. Led by Orf, who eventually ended his outstanding senior season in fifth place in the individual competition, and fellow senior Matthew Toohey, who fired a final day 664 series, O’Fallon made a concerted run at the title, as well as keeping their string of consecutive top-five finishes in the state finals intact.
The Panthers were unable to keep pace with Harlem during the afternoon session Saturday, completing the tournament in third place, behind champion Harlem and second-place Rockton Hononegah. O’Fallon’s third-place trophy marks the sixth consecutive year that the Panthers have finished their season as one of the top five teams in the state.
Girls win SWC title
Facing SWC rival Collinsville with the conference championship on the line last Monday, Jan. 23, the O’Fallon girls’ bowling squad was the first team to come through in the clutch.
Coach Garrett Spencer’s squad had a narrow half-game lead in the league standings when they toed the line against the Kahoks. In game one, the Panthers came out firing, posting a 1,011. As it turned out, the needed every pin, squeezing out a 3-pin victory.
The two squads continued their pin-for-pin battle into game two with O’Fallon extending the total pin advantage to 13. The Kahoks rallied in game three to move past the Lady Panthers in total pins 3,158-3,141. However, using the Peterson point system, the two teams were deadlocked, causing the final outcome to be determined by individual points. Freshman Natalie Heltne finished her set with a 267 game and a 699 series to win all four individual points. Hayleigh Williams added to the OTHS total with a 639 series and four points. The two outstanding scores resulted in the two teams splitting team points and a 20-20 tie.
“It was a real nail-biter to the very end,” said Spencer. “Splitting the individual scoring in the Peterson system rarely happens, but fortunately, our girls gutted it out and, at least this time, a tie was as good as a win for us. We finished the season at 10-2 in league play, while Collinsville had to settle for second with a 9.5-2.5 record.
“Winning the conference with a team dominated by freshmen and sophomore bowlers is quite an accomplishment for our kids,” Spencer added. “I couldn’t be happier with the result.”