In just a matter of three days, the Garden City High School boys bowling team has potentially found its rhythm with two convincing performances.
The latest came on Thursday at Hard Rock Lanes, where Brayden Bickett (675), Isaac George (616) and Kris Henderson (610) led the Buffs boys to an 11-0 whitewash of rival Dodge City in the final regular-season Western Athletic Conference dual match.
On the girls side, meanwhile, it was an impressive display by Karly Larson and Faith Whited that paced the GCHS girls to a 9-2 romp over the Red Demons, as the pair rolled career-best three-game series totals of 700 (Larson: 246-202-252) and 619 (Whited: 232-193-266). Angelina Leeper had her best outing of the season, rolling a 585 on games of 158-242–181 to place third individually.
In the three-game series portion of the match, the Buffs’ girls had games of 782-814-873 for a total of 2,469 pins, which set a program record, according to head coach Kip Nichols.
Larson’s 700 series was the second time a GCHS girl has hit that plateau, with former great Ricky Hemmert shooting a 726 in the early 2010s.
But it was the first time, Nichols said, that he had two of his bowlers being red-hot on the same day.
For Larson, it was a fitting way to end the regular season at home.
“I don’t really have the words, but when I saw that it was 700, I just said ‘oh my gosh,” she said. “It’s a surreal feeling.”
Larson credited her 10-minute warmup period, which allowed her to find the correct shot, or angle, into the pins.
“The practice just produces energy for me with my teammates,” Larson said. “I just moved myself around, and then once I found the sweet spot, I mainly just stayed outside the second arrow.”
Larson said she had made some adjustments in her approach and ball release a few weeks ago, and it is starting to show in her scores.
“I changed the way I bowl, and it’s working out in a good way,” Larson said.
For Whited, being paired with Larson on the same two lanes was a big boost, and the teammates fed off the momentum of the other.
“It’s the highest series ever for me (676 a couple of weeks earlier was a previous best), and it was really amazing that we were paired and both of us were really on,” Whited said. “Today, for me, it was more of a straight ball into the pocket. I think I just figured out where to be and was able to hit my mark.”
In her final game of 266, Whited was razor-close to a perfect 300, leaving a 10-pin tap in two frames, costing her a chance at rolling 12 strikes in a row.
“The two 10-pin leaves were good shots,” Whited said. “I thought they were perfect in the pocket, but probably just a little heavy.”
While the Buffs’ girls easily dominated the three-game series against Dodge, they gave up their only two points to the Demons in the three-game Baker format (five bowlers, each bowling two frames, but not consecutively), dropping the last two games by scores of 167-171 and 173-187 after winning the first game 209-190.
“I really hate giving up the two points, but it wasn’t that we bowled terribly, but Dodge bowled pretty well,” said GCHS coach Kip Nichols. “Overall, we’re doing pretty well (now in first place in the WAC with a 61-5 record), and yet we’re not getting everybody clicking at the same time.
“The beauty of this group is that we can have a different person step up and lead the team on any given day, just like today.”
On the boys side, it was Bickett who took top honors, and he was the epitome of consistency by rolling games of 237-226-212 for his 675 series.
The Buffs won the opening game of the three-game series with a 771 score and then exploded for a 960 in the second as Jacob Griffin (233), Isaac George (279) and Caidan Orozco (223) rounded out the red-hot total.
“Things are starting to flow for us as a team,” Bickett said afterward. “I can feel how the team is working more together. Everybody’s motivated, and we know what we need to do as we get ready for regionals and state.”
Bickett said it was important for he and his teammates to convert spares as they all throw a lot of strikes.
“We’ve got to fill those frames and not have opens,” he said. “You’ve got to stay calm and can’t let a bad frame, or a bad game, get you down.”
With the oil pattern on the lanes Thursday, Bickett said he had to adjust his shot by about five boards to the left of his normal shot.
“It wasn’t anything crazy, but you had to stay focused, and I think that’s one reason we’re bowling better now,” Bickett said. “We struggled a little in the early part of the season, but we’re gaining momentum.”
The 11-0 blanking of Dodge City came despite the absence of the team’s No. 1 bowler, Aaron Schafer, who was swimming with the Buffs’ boys team at the WAC meet in Great Bend.
For Nichols, it was heartening to see how the boys continue to improve and compete.
“The series for the boys is exactly what we needed,” Nichols said of the 2,566 total in the three-game set. “To see them compete, especially getting down in a couple of games and then rallying, that was really amazing to see the competitiveness.”
In the three-game Baker format, the Buffs won by margins of 196-180, 194-180 and then slammed the door with a 242-181 blowout of the Demons.
“Hats off to the guys, they had a great day,” Nichols said.
Both teams will have a week to prepare for the WAC tournament, which will be contested in Great Bend on Thursday. After that, it will be a dual at Junction City and regionals the following week.