In addition to battling through the January and February Western Athletic Conference schedule, there are three other major tournaments for which the Garden City bowling teams place their focus.
The first comes in early January with the Bishop Carroll tournament, the second is the Great Plains Invitational in Wichita and the third is, well…third and fourth are the Class 6A regionals and state tournaments.
Friday’s schedule saw the Buffs in that second big event of the season — the Great Plains Invitational — which by all counts is the biggest high school bowling event in the state of Kansas, 30 teams.
The Buffs finished the marathon day in dramatic fashion, as they won the final match of the day against Wichita Northwest in a three-game set to capture the GPIT title.
“It was an amazing day, an excruciating and grueling day,” GCHS coach Kip Nichols said. “It was our 21st game of the day. The girls showed more heart and they battled all day. They were spent at the end of the day.”
That final match came at the end of eight teams being paired for head-to-head competition, where they competed in a best 2-of-3 format in Baker play (5 bowlers, 2 frames each, but not rolled consecutively).
After losing the first game against Northwest (151-201), which had beaten top seeded Campus in the semis, the Buffs responded with a 170-147 win to set up the final game to determine the tournament champion. And again, the Buffs were dominant, winning 210-173.
“It was quite an interesting series because one game, we had 6 strikes but no spares…and we lost the game,” Nichols said. “But after that, I thought the girls bowled exceptionally well.”
In one stretch of that final 210, the team put together four consecutive strikes, and then junior Ryleigh Whitehurst finished it off with three straight strikes in the 10th frame.
In the semifinals of match play, the Buffs won the first game against Wichita East (150-148), lost the second (173-178) before winning the deciding third game (192-178).
The quarterfinal match-up against Junction City saw the Buffs falter 133-169 before rallying to win 185-146 and then 180-160.
Three matches, three third and deciding games, and three wins for the Buffs. Tough as could be.
The Buffs earned a No. 3 seed for the match play by a combination of a three-game series where the top five scores counted, and then each team bowled 12 games of the Baker format.
In the three-game series, Karly Larson (209-163-167) and Alexis Leon (211-136-192) shared top honors for the team at 539. Whitehurst was right behind at 538 (195-208-135) with Faith Whited close at 532 (212-173-147). Rounding out the team scores were Emily Giger (173-173-137—483) and Angelina Leeper (141-175-175—471).
“The balance was really good, and we didn’t have anybody in the top 10 series,” Nichols said. “I think it’s the depth and balance that really showed up today.”
Following that the Buffs were in that 12-game Baker marathon.
They rolled games of 135-167-197-236 in the first set, 202-158-159-143 in the second set and then 150-171-178-171 in the third set.
Nichols, who keeps a frame by frame tally on his bowlers in the Baker format to see how they’re faring, said that during the 12-game set, Whitehurst at one point rolled eight consecutive strikes once, six another time and then had two sets of four consecutive strikes.
The GPIT turns to the boys side for Saturday’s competition. First ball will be thrown at 8:45 a.m. And the format is the same for the boys as it is for the girls.
“Not much late stuff tonight,” Nichols said of the early bedtime. “The boys are tired, too, from cheering on the girls. It will be the same tomorrow.”