Girls Bowling caps program-best year

The Lady Panthers Bowling Team took second last weekend at the 2018 High School National Championships. (Photo by Ross Rosenberg)

By Sam Scinta

O’Fallon Mayor Herb Roach took the trip to Busch Stadium on a rainy Monday evening to wrap up the biggest bowling weekend in the history of the town.

St. Clair Bowl just finished hosting the 2018 High School National Championships over the weekend, and Roach was on the field before the Cardinals’ 4-0 win over the Cleveland Indians to honor the individual national champions, as well as the teams that made the trip to O’Fallon for the tournament.

“This was a tremendous event, for our town to host so many wonderful young bowlers from around the country,” Roach said. “But how about our girls?”

Roach was clearly proud of what the O’Fallon Township High School Girls Bowling team was able to accomplish at the tournament, placing second overall, just behind 2018 IHSA State Champion Machesny Park-Harlem. 

“They really bowled their hearts out and gave our community an awful lot to be proud of,” Roach added. 

The Lady Panthers opened up tournament play on Friday, making the cut for the Survivor Round and eventually on to the Final Four, along with Circle Christian (FL), Shikellamy (PA), and Machesny Park-Harlem.

Those four were whittled down from the surviving eight that also included Hardin County (TN), Sun Prairie (WI), Pleasure Ridge Park (KY), and Sussex Hamilton (WI).

O’Fallon was in second place after the qualifying round, just 50 pins behind Machesny Park-Harlem for the pin lead. 

“They (Machesny Park-Harlem) have a great program up there, and it’s one that we’re fortunate we get to see at the state level,” Girls Head Coach Garrett Spencer said. “You always want to go up against great competition, and our girls grow a lot each time we face off against a team like theirs.”

Grace Braswell rolled the team-high game for the qualifying round, tossing a 257 in the third game, while Mary Orf scored the highest series with a 648, rolling a 202, 235, and 211 in the process.

Madison Thornton also contributed a strong couple of games, tossing a 205 and 234 in the first two games before slowing some in rolling a 155 in the final qualifier. 

“I thought we bowled really well up and down our roster,” Spencer added. “There are a lot of adjustments you have to make throughout the day, and for the most part I think our ladies handled it really well.”

OTHS lost ground briefly in the Baker section of the tournament, where the team combines to bowl one full game, with each bowler rolling two frames. The Lady Panthers scored 176 and 160 before rebounding for a 218 game to close out the portion.

“We started off a little slowly in Baker, but you could see in the third game where the girls always pick each other up,” Spencer said. “That’s the sign of a great team, when each bowler helps the others out and makes each other better.”

In the Survivor Round, the Lady Panthers cruised until they came up against a familiar foe in Machesny Park-Harlem. The reigning IHSA State Champions used the same depth that gave them a #1 seed in the bracket to simply outpace O’Fallon, and the Blue and Gold was left to claim second in the nation, a crowning accomplishment in what has been the best year in program history.

The Lady Panthers placed fourth in the State Finals, behind Machesny Park-Harlem, Hoffman Estates, and Schaumburg before the Runner-Up showing at the National Championships. And the future is every bit as bright as the present for these ladies.

“What’s so impressive about the team is that there were no seniors, so each one of those ladies should be back next year,” Roach remarked. “I couldn’t believe me when they told me that. To have that much poise from a young team, it really bodes well for what they can do next year, hopefully bringing a State Championship home for the first time.”

With performances like this, it will be hard to doubt them when they hit the lanes next season.