OTHS Lady Panthers win Abe Lincoln Invitational

By Nate Heltne

OTHS Lady Panthers traveled to Springfield Sat, Dec. 1, to participate in the 11th Annual Abe Lincoln Invitational. And, just as the stormy weather hit Southern Illinois that day, the girls struck like lightning with a dominating wire-to-wire win and defended their title from last year. 

The Lady Panthers shot an incredible 6363 (team avg 212.1) beating the nearest team by 737 pins. That team would be the runner-up Collinsville Kahoks who shot 5626, followed by Salem 5494 and Mascoutah 5351.

The Lady Panthers started the day on fire when they shot an amazing 1150 and never looked back. That, as it turned out, would be the high game for the tournament, including the boys’ division. During that first game, junior Mary Orf led the way with a great game 267, newly signed SFA recruit and senior Lauren Tomaszewski 244, junior Natalie Heltne 233, senior Maddi Thornton 225 and junior Grace Braswell 180.

The second game of the day would be the girls’ low game of the tournament shooting 973. However, after sitting out the first game senior Hayleigh Williams came in and took charge by striking in her first 5 frames and ended with 235 pins to lead the team while Heltne and Orf had the other 200+ games at 210 and 205, respectively.

Game three would see a resurgence of high scores with the team surpassing the 1100 mark for the second time shooting an 1107. 

“The girls finally came together and bowled the way this team is capable of bowling.  Posting scores over 1100 really helped give the girls a comfortable lead which led to more confidence on the lanes,” Head Coach Garrett Spencer said. 

It would be Orf again who would lead the team shooting another great game 266, followed by Heltne 236, Williams 216, Tomaszewski 214 and Braswell 175. 

The team had 3230 pins at the break with a commanding 438-pin lead over second. Three Lady Panthers had solid 3-game series: Orf, Heltne and Tomaszewski shooting 738, 679, and 630, respectively.

After the lunch break, Heltne had a run of three outstanding games shooting a tournament high series 773. She shot games of 246, 258 and 269. She had perfection on her mind during the fifth game where she was perfect through her first seven frames but missed on her eighth attempt leaving two stubborn pins. She picked up her spare and finished the game with a 258.

“We had outstanding performances from several bowlers on Saturday, but Natalie Heltne really stood out shooting an outstanding 770 series in the afternoon.  Natalie lead the entire house in pin-fall for the day,” Coach Spencer said.

Heltne had a better showing Saturday than her first tournament last week Nov. 24 at the Triad Invitational by 324 pins. She was the top overall finisher with a 1452 (242 avg) even besting the boys’ top bowler and fellow OTHS classmate senior Josh Herran by 55 pins; Orf was runner-up with a rock-solid 1347 (224.5 avg), while Tomaszewski finished fifth with a 1277 (212.8 avg). Two Alton Redbirds has great tournaments as well. Seniors Ashley Westbrook (214.6 avg) and Alex Bergen (214.2 avg) finished third and fourth, with a 1288 and 1285 series. 

Other notable finishes; Salem senior Kayla Smith 1275 (6th), Mascoutah junior Corynne Bean 1231 (8th), Highland sophomore Molly Marshall 1202 (10th), and top freshman Caitlyn Ennis 1168 (11th).

Sat Dec 8th the Lady Panthers will travel up to Joliet to face the best teams in the state, the premiere girls bowling tournament of the season, Strikefest!