By BRETT MARSHALL
After two games of the three-game series in Thursday's bowling triangular at Hard Rock Lanes, the Garden City Buffaloes found themselves on the short end of scores in both the boys and girls divisions.
It appeared there was little hope for the girls to overtake a talented Dodge City team and the boys were on the short end of the score by 74 pins. That came after leading at the end of the first game by 22 pins.
Enter Justin Perez, the Buffs' senior who has struggled at times during the season, but came to the rescue in the final game.
Perez carried the Buffs with a brilliant 278, firing six consecutive strikes to begin the final game, had a nine-pin count and spare in the seventh frame, then followed it with four more strikes and an ending nine-pin count.
As a result, the Buffs rallied for a final game of 861 while Dodge City fell apart with a 725, allowing the host team to not only catch up, but to win by 62 pins (2,392-2,330).
"It feels pretty good to win and our team got going in that last game," a smiling Perez said afterward. "It was pretty close there after the second game. We didn't bowl very well and we had to get back on our game."
Perez said the team's strong start (836 to Dodge City's 814) put the team in a good place.
"We had some momentum and then in the second (game) it just all went downhill," Perez said. "We were not where we should be and I think we just came back with all the intensity and bowled more aggressively."
The victory was the first for Perez as a varsity bowler over the rival Red Demons. Holcomb's boys finished a distant third with 2,188 pins.
"Last year, we lost all the times to them," Perez said. "I worked this week on my approach because I had been pulling the ball. I was approaching too fast and when I slowed down, I was able to take the ball into the middle and I had a couple of good breaks. I had a couple of 7-10 splits and I usually have some pocket-10 (pin) leaves, but I only had one of those today so I know I was throwing with more power."
For the day, Perez finished with a 698 series following games of 232 and 188 with his 278 score.
"He (Perez) took the team and led it," Kip Nichols, GCHS bowling coach, said. "He just took the weight of the entire team and ran with it. He was amazing today."
It was a much different story for the Lady Buffs.
Dodge City took an early lead after the opening game (764-705) and then extended it to 706-608 after the second game. Dodge City's girls fired an 826 in the final game while the Lady Buffs managed just 672. The final difference was 2,296 to 1,985.
"It was just a tough day all the way around for the girls," Nichols said. "But one of our bright spots was (senior) Ashley Kells. She's struggled most of the season and she had a good series today (535, with games of 209-156-170). Junior Rikkie Hemmert grabbed team honors with a 544 on games of 190-170-184.
"It wasn't too bad, but certainly not what I wanted," Hemmert said of her series. "Dodge City is our top team to beat, but unfortunately we couldn't adjust the way we needed to."
With Hard Rock Lanes nearly full of supporting family members, friends and fellow students, the home lane advantage did not work for the Lady Buffs.
"Sometimes, bowling at home does have its disadvantages," Hemmert said. "You go up and bowl and turn around and look and you see everyone there and you just try harder. I think it adds to the pressure. You do your best to zone in and keep it just about you. You can help others, but when it comes your turn, you've got to block everything else out."
Holcomb's top bowlers were Corey Roth for the boys (572, 186-191-195) while Ashley Foreman led the Lady Longhorns with 475 (150-144-181).
Both Garden City and Holcomb teams will travel to Liberal on Monday for a rescheduled five-team tourney that features the four WAC teams and the Longhorns. First ball is rolled at 2:30 p.m. at Ayr Lanes.
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.