By BRETT MARSHALL
For the Garden City High School bowling teams, Thursday's Western Athletic Conference dual with Dodge City at Hard Rock Lanes was as much about regaining its mojo as it was winning.
For the Buffs boys, they were able to do both, dominating the Red Demons with an 11-0 whitewashing in the combination of a three-game series and the three-game Baker format.
For the Lady Buffs, however, the results were mixed as they squeaked out a 6-5 overall win despite losing all four points of the Baker format.
It was an important day considering that both teams had been saddled with big losses just 48 hours before in Tuesday's dual at Great Bend, the reigning WAC champions.
But with Tuesday's 11-0 victory, the Buffs are likely to go into next Thursday's WAC championship, also in Great Bend, with at least a 10-point lead. The Lady Buffs are trailing Great Bend by approximately the same number of points.
The Buffs boys were paced by sophomore Tristan Funk, whose 678 series (183-268-227) was highlighted by his middle game, when he strung together six strikes to start the game.
"It just felt amazing today, being back home in front of family, friends and on lanes we're familiar with," Funk said. "We had gotten down in Great Bend, but this is a big confidence builder for us. I think all of us are more comfortable here, and this sure helps us."
Funk said the Buffs will have to make adjustments when they head back to Great Bend for the deciding WAC event of the season. The Buffs are seeking to win the conference for the first time since 2010 and for only the second time in the program's history.
"We'll find out how Great Bend did at Liberal on Friday (today)," said GCHS coach Kip Nichols. "So we'll know how much of a lead we have going into the WAC. I thought the boys really got off to a good start, then caught fire and carried it through to the end."
Particularly impressive were the three Baker format games in which the Buffs shot 225-179-246--650, one of their best efforts of the season in the format that has five bowlers roll two frames each, none consecutively.
In addition to Funk's 678, which topped all individuals for the day, senior captain Theron Kells followed with a 631 (232-220-179), while another senior, Jarett Landgraf, topped the 600-mark with a 610 series (183-203-224). Mickey Bridges came up just short at 592 and Ryan Strecker had a 568. Karl Larson Jr., a freshman, struggled with a 434 series.
"That's why we've got six bowlers," Nichols said. "Bubba (Karl Larson Jr.) struggled some today, but he's been good for us most of the season and he's got a lot of good games in front of him the rest of the season."
For the girls, the struggles were a continuation of what transpired in Great Bend on Tuesday when they lost all 11 points to the Lady Panthers.
Sophomore Haily Park had the best series for the Lady Buffs with a 573 on games of 199-182-192. That placed her second behind Dodge City's Kaitlyn Tabor, who had a 593.
"It felt good today, and I felt comfortable," Park said. "Here, I just have to speed my ball up, while at Great Bend I had to slow it down. I'm ready to go back next week. Everybody knows what we need to do."
The Lady Buffs won the first two games of the three-game series before dropping the final game and then coming up short in the Baker format.
"At times the girls bowled pretty good, but Dodge City bowled really well in that last game, and then we just didn't do much in the Baker format," Nichols said. "We were just flat, and they couldn't get back up and get going."
The Buffs will have their ranking games today, which will determine final lineups for the WAC tourney on Thursday.
Holcomb's boys and girls finished a distant third in both divisions. Gavin Swann was the top Longhorn boys bowler with a 578 series, while Kenzie Becker's 485 topped the girls squad.