LANCASTER – One of the officials working this year's state bowling championship compared the sport to golf.
“It's not who is the best,” he said. “It's who the best is that day.”
On Friday at Tiki Lanes in Lancaster it's quite possible the best team was the best, as a youthful and talented Riverside Stebbins squad defeated Centerville 3-1 in the finals to capture the 2008 Ohio High School Athletic Association boys bowling team title.
Stebbins entered the championship round with the highest qualifying score (3,095) and proceeded to defeat three teams to take the trophy in the OHSAA's second championship event.
“It was meant to be for us,” said Stebbins coach Don Brown, whose team placed 10th in the state last year. “This time we weren't content with just being here. We thought we had a shot at winning it.”
Stebbins, which used a lineup of three sophomores and two seniors, defeated Centerville by scores of 176-139, 190-213, 219-208 and 217-206. The closest game was the fourth, as Centerville needed to go strike-srike in its final two frames to extend the match. The final Elks bowler managed only a nine in the penultimate roll to mathematically secure the win for Stebbins.
“We were preparing for this all season,” said Stebbins' Johnathon Miller, who placed fourth in the individual competition and was the critical No. 5 bowler during the baker rounds. “We knew we wanted to come here and win this.”
The OHSAA's version of baker involves five bowlers from each team bowling two frames each. The top team scores in each game earn a point, with the first team to three points winning the match.
Sophomores Miller, Chase Kolozsi, Chase Carter and seniors Jesse Beal and Chris Lutz represented Stebbins in the baker rounds.
Stebbins defeated Westerville Central (3-2) and blanked Kettering Fairmont (3-0) to reach the final. Centerville, seeded sixth after the preliminaries, knocked off Austintown-Fitch (3-1) and defending state champion Coldwater (3-2) to get to Stebbins.
The Elks very nearly didn't reach the final.
Tied 2-2 with Coldwater in the semifinals, Centerville's opponents rolled strikes in the first three frames of the deciding game.
Rolling third for Centerville, Josh Hutnyan's first roll left the 3, 6, 7 and 10 pins. The junior calmly picked up the difficult spare, a turn of events that seemed to ignite the Elks team. Centerville threw strikes on its next six frames, opening up the lead on what would be a 244-190 victory.
“We lost to a good team, you have to hand it to Stebbins,” Centerville coach Mario Mosesso said. “I'm proud of our guys, they never quit all day.”
Earlier in the afternoon Urbana senior Brice Ream captured the individual state championship with a three-game score of 763. Ream beat Westerville Central's Jay Foote by a 48-pin margin.
“It's awesome,” Ream said. “It feels amazing.”
Troy's Erik Canan was third with a 795, with Miller (694) and Chad Livingston (690) of Coldwater rounding out the top-5 finishers.
Ream's state title came in his first appearance at the state event. He had not qualified even beyond the sectional tournament the past two winters. The 763-series was the second-highest of Ream's bowling career.
“Everything thing just kind of clicked,” said Ream, who said he is considering bowling at Wright State. “The lanes were perfect, I didn't have to move at all.”
Austintown-Fitch senior Matt Clemens took a commanding lead of the individual competition after two games, his 278-248 putting him in prime position for the event's first 800-series. But a surprising third game score of 135 left him 12th overall at 661.
Overall, the boys championship was a showcase for the Dayton area.
Half of the teams in the championship team round were from Dayton or the surrounding area. With Kettering Fairmont reaching the semifinals, it meant three of the top four teams in the state this year were Dayton-area schools.
In the final single-elimination bracket, no Southwest District team lost to a school from outside the district.
“It's a strong area for bowling,” said Mosesso. “Our proprietors and junior coaching is phenomenal.”
The Southwest District was also dominant in the final individual standing.
Bowlers from the district nabbed half of the top-10 places, finishing 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th.