After falling just short of bringing home a trophy from the IHSA State Bowling Tournament in each of the past two years, the O’Fallon Panthers made up for lost time on Saturday at Cherry Bowl in Rockford.
They also made a little history along the way as well.
Lauren Tomaszewski averaged over 212 for 12 games and four Panthers teammates also excelled as O’Fallon captured its first team state championship in school history, dethroning Machesney Park Harlem for the title.
“I’m just so excited for these girls. They are team in the truest sense,’’ Panthers coach Garrett Spencer said in a telephone interview. “The way they picked each other up and fought through adversity this weekend when it seemed like Harlem was going to make a move on us.
“They never let it get to them. They stayed focused for all 12 games. I couldn’t be more proud. Now they will get a state championship banner in the gym and will remember what they accomplished this weekend and this season for the rest of their lives.”
Tomaszewski, who had series of 683 and 670 on Saturday to finish second overall with 2,552 pins, had plenty of help. Juniors Mary Orf (2,430) and Natalie Heltne (2,429) also came up with outstanding performances, while Hayleigh Williamsd (2,398) and Grace Braswell provided the depth needed to defeat perennial state power Machesney Park Harlem.
O’Fallon finished with 12,122 pins, 98 more than Harlem, which, led by individual champion Rebecca Hagerman, (2,682), finished with 12,024. Minooka, Joliet West and Lockport rounded out the top five teams.
O’Fallon, which barely missed a trophy in each of the past two years, finishing fourth on both occasions, held a 45-pin lead over Harlem with two games left.
But with the pressure on the line, O’Fallon beat Harlem 1,055-956 to put the tournament away.
“It’s Harlem. They have been the top program in the state. But bowling them head to head the way we did in the 11th game. Our girls really responded well,’’ Spencer said. “Coming up here the last two years and finishing fourth, one spot out of a trophy... that was tough.
“But I think that made us better this year. Our girls weren’t going to let it slip away.’’
Belleville East, led by Abby Gray (2,464) and Grace Kowalski (2,348) placed sixth in the team competition with 11,230 pins, while Collinsville was eighth (11,172).
Individually, Belleville West senior Haley Dunn placed 34th with a score of 2,356 pins.