The O’Fallon Panthers fell short in their bid to become the first girls team in school history to earn a trophy as they placed fourth in the 24-team field of the IHSA girls bowling state tournament at Cherry Bowl in Rockford.
After an exceptional first day placed the OTHS girls bowling team in third place in the IHSA state finals, the Lady Panthers faltered just enough to narrowly miss earning a team medal, ending up in fourth place, less than 50 pins behind third-place Waubonsie Valley.
Facing a field of twenty-four teams last Friday, the young OTHS squad was unfazed by the level of competition, despite putting a team composed of freshmen and sophomores on the lanes. The Panther girls posted the best first-game score with 1,134 pins. They didn’t let up much through the morning preliminaries, posting rounds of 1,054 and 988. Mary Orf led the OTHS charge with a 671 series, followed closely by teammates Maddi Thornton (645) and Natalie Heltne (624). The trio continued their hot shooting into the afternoon round, allowing the Lady Panthers to take over third place by the end of the day.
Friday’s action narrowed the field from 24 to 12 teams for the state finale Saturday. Harlem High School maintained its stranglehold on the top spot with Lockport solidly in second.
The battle for third place — and the final state medal — turned into a barn-burner with the OTHS girls battling it out with Waubonsie Valley. The third-place spot came down to the final game of the tournament. Waubonsie Valley edged the O’Fallon squad 988 to 899 to claim the third-place trophy.
Heltne took honors as O’Fallon’s top bowler, finishing 21st overall in the individual competition. Thornton was the next best kegler for the Panthers, ending the finals in 44th.
“We just missed earning a team medal, but the experience overall was amazing,” said O’Fallon High coach Garrett Spencer. “We started the year with a group that had a lot of experience in junior bowling, and they matured into a dangerous high school squad. Everyone contributed to our success this year. With a team composed of freshmen and sophomore standouts, the future looks bright for our program. Now that our girls have had a taste of state competition, I expect them to be hungrier than ever to return to earn one of the top spots next year.”