O’Fallon bowling coach Mike Imes has watched this season at times in pure amazement as the Panthers have continued to put up school, Southern Illinois High School Bowling Conferencer and state record scores at an alarming rate.
But last Saturday at the Columbia Regional at West Park Bowl, even Imes, the SIHSBC commssioner for the past 20 years, was startled a little bit by the scores O’Fallon shot to win the regional title.
Led by a six-game total of 1,497 from junior Andrew Orf, the Panthers averaged over 230 per game, finished with a team score of 6,926 and defeated runnerup Belleville East by more the 400 pins.
“We could have been over 7,000. We fouled four times and had four or five other frames where we had splits with three or four pins and failed to convert on them,” Imes said. “This team has been focused on one thing and that’s getting back to the state tournament and hopefully having a chance to win it.
“With the numbers we’ve shot all year, the boys still don’t think we’ve peaked yet. We still haven’t had everybody clicking at their best on the same day. Hopefully it will happen at sectional and state next week.”
The final stop on the road to the IHSA State Bowling Tournament will be at Panorama Lanes in Belleville for the Cahokia Bowling Sectional on Saturday when the top teams and individuals compete for a precious few spots into the state finals.
In all 15 teams and 40 individuals from southern and central Illinois will beon hand whollinsvilen first round action begins at 9 a.m. The final three games will follow at a little after noon with the top six teams and top 10 individuals advancing to the state tournament which will be held, Jan. 30-31 at St. Clair Bowl in O’Fallonn.
In addition to O’Fallon, local teams Belleville East, Columbia, Cahokia, Collinsville, Jerseyville, Triad, Highland, Edwardsville and Alton will also compete in the team competition.
Salem, which won the Collinsville Regional, and is former state champion, is also in the field.
The teams to beat
While O’Fallon, ranked third behind Rockton Hononegah and Machesney Park Harlem, in the state bowling rankings, is a clear cut favorite to advance on Saturday, several others should also be in the hunt.
Collinsville, which is always a threat to move to the state finals under the guidance of highly-successful coach Seann Hay, is also favored to advance on Saturday as is Salem and possibly Herrin.
Whoever advances will have to go high according to Imes.
“It’s a shot at Panorama that we like and I know there are alot of other teams who have bowled there and had success. It’s Belleville East, Belleville West and Freeburg’s home house,” Imes said. “So I would think all three of those teams should do well. I expect the scores to be high with maybe five or six teams competing for the final three spots. All we want to do is bowl well and advance.’’