By BRETT MARSHALL
It was a strong performance that lifted the Garden City High School bowling teams to respective runner-up finishes on Thursday at the Western Athletic Conference tournament, contested at Dodge City’s Spare Thyme Lanes.
Both the boys and girls teams finished second to Great Bend, the odds-on favorites at the start of the 2013 schedule.
“There was a bit of sadness and excitement for both teams at different parts of the matches today,” GCHS coach Kip Nichols said.
The highlight of the day for the boys was a three-point sweep of Great Bend in the Baker format, where each team uses five bowlers who roll two frames each.
“No doubt about it, that was the best thing of the day for the boys,” Nichols said as his team produced a series of 588 against the Panthers. “It wasn’t the best the boys could bowl, and at times it was a struggle, but bottom line they found a way to win. Great Bend had been the best Baker team we’ve seen all season, so it was exciting to see the boys sweep them.”
In the first portion of Thursday’s competition, the Buffs’ boys competed in a three-game series in which the best four games of the six individuals are used to account for the team score. The Buffs had individual game totals of 838-757-846 in that format, earning the team six points.
All told, there were 21 points available to a team, with Great Bend finishing first with 16, Garden City next with 15, Dodge City with 11 and Liberal had 0. In the total pin count between the 12 games that were rolled, Great Bend had 4,349 to Garden City’s 4,222. Dodge City was a distant third at 3,880 and Liberal well back in fourth at 3,598.
“I think there’s some sense that the boys never really bowled to their potential, but still I walk away today with a smile on my face and know they gave it a good shot,” Nichols said.
Individually, freshman Tristan Funk placed second for the three-game series with a 662 total. It fell short of his 717 total on the same lanes Tuesday when the Buffs competed in a dual with the Red Demons.
“He found a good set and had a good line,” Nichols said of Funk who had games of 237-226-199 on Thursday. “I think his series on Tuesday gave him a lot of confidence coming in to the competition today.”
Great Bend’s Dakota Conaway, the league’s most valuable player, was first with a 693 series.
Theron Kells placed sixth Thursday with a 626 series with games of 158-201-267. Both Funk and Kells earned all-WAC honors for the season, while Juan Ramirez was named honorable mention. Ramirez had a 580 series on Thursday while Braden Davidson was next at 522, Ethan Yardley at 514 and Mickey Bridges at 459.
In the Baker format, the Buffs bowled three games against each of the three WAC opponents and rolled a 601 against Dodge City, yet won just one point. They had a 592 against Liberal, sweeping all three points and had a 588 to Great Bend’s 551 to make a sweep there.
For the Lady Buffs, senior Vicki Newell topped the individual list on Thursday, finishing with a 527 series on games of 136-187-204, while Alexa Hemmert was next at 512 on games of 178-155-179. Newell was second individually to Amanda Simmons of Dodge City, who had a 544 series. Hemmert placed sixth.
Both Hemmert, second overall, and Newell, fourth, were named all-WAC while Amanda Deihl was an honorable mention selection.
In total pin count, Great Bend placed first with 3,513 while the Lady Buffs were not far behind at 3,471. Liberal was third at 3,235 and Dodge City fourth at 3,090. The Lady Buffs had three-game individual totals of 661-645-716.
In the Baker format, Garden’s girls topped the list with 15 points while Great Bend was next with 14. Liberal earned eight points and Dodge City two in that format.
Against Dodge City in the Baker format, the Lady Buffs rolled a 526 and swept the Lady Demons. They rolled a 442 against Liberal, earning just one point and had a 481 series against Great Bend, again getting one point.
“I thought the girls got better after getting used to the lane conditions,” Nichols said of the Lady Buffs. “You’ve got to have confidence in what you’re doing and make good shots. We were better today than we were on Tuesday. I think the fact we came into the season as a very young team, this team bowled above expectations and I think they made great strides.”
Next up for the teams will be the Class 6A regionals, scheduled for Feb. 22 at Thunderbird Lanes in Wichita. The girls will compete against 10 other teams at 9:30 a.m., while the boys will compete at 1 p.m. against 9 other teams. The top three teams and the next six best individuals will qualify for the 6A state tournament, scheduled for March 1 at North Rock Lanes, also in Wichita.