By BRETT MARSHALL
Two years after finishing ninth in a nine-team field at the 2011 Class 6A state tournament at North Rock Lanes in Wichita, the Garden City Buffaloes boys' team returned and this time they made amends for that showing by finishing third on Friday.
The Buffs will be bringing home a similar trophy to what the Lady Buffs brought back two years ago with a matching third-place finish. The girls just missed another trophy in 2012, placing fourth.
Coach Kip Nichols' squad rolled a three-game series of 2,588 pins on games of 825-875-888. In each game, the four highest scores count of the six bowlers on the team.
The Buffs strong showing put them back of repeat champion Olathe North, which finished at 2,674 and Haysville-Campus at 2,631. Rounding out the top five teams were Olathe South at 2,524 and Wichita Southeast at 2,511.
Freshman Tristan Funk led the way for the Buffs with a 678 series and a seventh-place individual finish, the highest in school history for the boys program. Funk rolled games of 211-243-224 while senior Juan Ramirez Jr. placed 12th with a 649 series on games of 213-220-216. Both earned individual medals for placing in the top 20 spots.
"The boys did a fantastic job today and just really peaked at the right time," Nichols said Friday afternoon. "They just got better every game today and that's what you look for."
After the opening game of 825, the Buffs were in fifth place, and their 875 moved them up to third and that's where they remained following the 888.
"Those were very respectable scores and we just had everybody contributing," Nichols said. "It was a total team effort."
Theron Kells was next highest for the Buffs with a 609 series (202-212-195) and placed 25th. Ethan Yardley's 596 series (144-200-252) placed him tied for 31st, while Braden Davidson had a 595 series (199-200-196) and placed 34th. Mickey Bridges rounded out the Buffs' scoring with a 525 series on games of 163-173-189.
"I thought the kids handled the pressure of the state tournament pretty well considering how young and inexperience we are," Nichols said.
Ramirez is the lone senior on the team, while Kells is a junior, Davidson a sophomore and the remaining three are freshmen.
On the girls side, junior Amanda Deihl placed 35th in a field of 72 bowlers with a 520 series. She rolled games of 182-178-160. She was the lone girls bowler to qualify for the Lady Buffs at last week's regional.
With five of the top six bowlers returning in 2014 for both the boys and girls' teams, the Buffs' program is in great shape, Nichols said.
"We've got a strong nucleus coming back and I'm so excited for where we are right now," Nichols said. "As young as we are, this performance is remarkable and a tribute to how hard the kids worked."
Only Vicky Newell graduates on the girls side. as they return Deihl, Jensen Strasser, Brittany Palomino, Alexa Hemmert and Emma Stoecklein.
Nichols said the boys' performance on Friday followed a strong performance on Thursday when Great Bend's boys claimed the Class 5-1A team championship and had the individual medalist as well.
"The WAC (Western Athletic Conference) is becoming recognized as one of the strong areas of high school bowling," Nichols said. "People are beginning to realize that the bowlers out here are pretty darned good."