Garden City High School’s girls bowling team, which claimed the Class 6A state championship last March, made a statement in the 2018 season-opening tournament Saturday by winning the 24-team Bishop Carroll Invitational in Wichita.

In the tournament, which solely uses the Baker format (five bowlers bowl two frames each, but not consecutively), the Buffs held off one of their top rivals, Wichita Northwest by a mere five pins over the 12 games of competition.

The Buffs finished with 2,191 pins to the Grizzlies’ 2,186.

“We won by just enough pins in the final game to hold off Northwest,” GCHS head coach Kip Nichols said. “The thing I liked about the girls is that they started off strong, and then got better and better.”

On the boys side, the Buffs had moments of solid bowling but in other instances struggled, especially with splits and missing spares, Nichols said.

The Buffs placed eighth among the large field with 2,346 pins, trailing Salina Central by nine pins. Host Carroll won the boys title with 2,579 pins. Western Athletic Conference foes Liberal and Great Bend placed fifth and sixth, respectively, with 2,399 and 2,390 totals.

“We gave away some games, ultimately because of some untimely splits,” Nichols said of the boys. “There was some struggling with spare shooting.”

Despite that, Nichols said he was pleased with the team’s effort and said that there is room for improvement.

“I saw some things that we can build on,” Nichols said of the boys. “We had some younger kids in there, and it was their first varsity tournament and I thought they competed well and stayed focus.”

One of those was freshman Kaiden Orozco, who Nichols said averaged about 203 when he compiled the individual linescores from all games.

“He made a good showing in a big tournament and filled in the roster very nicely,” Nichols said of Orozco.

The Buffs’ girls team returns the vast majority of the bowlers who won the 6A title a season ago. Last year, Ryleigh Whitehurst took second in the state individually, and she was the top bowler again on Saturday, Nichols said.

“She averaged right around 202 and it’s good to see her stepping up again,” Nichols said. “But all the girls bowled well, and showed a great team effort.”

Nichols said Angelina Leeper was the day’s most pleasant surprise, averaging 184, which is about 20 pins above her preseason tryout average.

“She’s a gamerm and I thought she, along with the others, responded well in the pressure situations,” Nichols said.

Nichols said that in the early block pool games, the Buffs routed Northwest in their head-to-head matchup.

“No doubt, we’ll see them again,” Nichols said of the Grizzlies. “It was really good to see how the girls handled the pressure of the big tournament and in the biggest games we bowled.”

The Buffs will open their home schedule at 3 p.m. Tuesday when they host Liberal in a Western Athletic Conference dual at Hard Rock Lanes. The JV squad will compete at Garden Bowl.