The Junction City boys bowling team was eight pins from achieving a season goal — bringing home hardware to show their hard work to everyone — Thursday at the Class 6A State Tournament at Wichita’s Northrock Lanes.
“Eight pins is hard to swallow when you're ... we're in fourth place,” said coach Brad Adams. “Third place was a tie, and they were seven pins above us. We happen to scrounge up eight pins some place maybe a spare and we're setting in second place. We bowled really good today so, I can't fault anybody. But, when the race is that tight, everything counts. And when it's all said and done, it's a tough pill to swallow.”
Despite the team finish, four bowlers — Kazerick Smith, Logan Lindsley, Jessup Ray and TJ Lindsay — finished in the top-20 individual scores among the 72 athletes competing, each receiving a medal for their finish.
“They all bowled good,” Adams said. “Kazerick had a 629, he had a good game that last game. He had the front 10 strikes — that that brings the series way up. But other than that, it just took him a little bit, but while he was working on that we had others step up. TJ shot 258 in the second game and Jessup a shot 224, CJ Holmes shot 192. So, I mean everybody helped out when they needed to. So, it was all right.”
Smith’s 629 was plussed up by a near perfect, final game. A feat which Adams said is special, in of itself, but for a senior to close out his career with, makes it more special.
“So, he goes he's got the front 10 strikes — you know everybody's starting to think 300,” he said. “I saw fans up in the stands, not even from Junction, get their phone out — they're ready to record it.
“He said his ball didn't come up and it didn't it didn't come up enough and left himself a baby split — picked it up for a 288,” he added. “He told me afterwards, he was so distraught about that ball not coming up and finishing. But, if you miss it at the bottom of the swing just a little bit, that's what the ball does. That's why this sport is so hard, you have to be so consistent. It was a great game.”
Prior to his final game, Smith was sitting on nine strikes — including a 10th frame trio to finish the second game — and seven spares. He opened the day with a 181 and followed it up with a 160. As he rolled the ball in the final game he watched the ball hit the pins and then walk off, never showing emotion or any sort of reaction to what was happening.
“That was an absolute great game and he said he quit feeling his legs about the seventh frame,” Adams said. “You get nervous, and you've got to get to those kind of games multiple times before you figure out how to put those nerves aside and just go to business. He's had lots of strikes before but I don't know if I've never seen him run the front 10.”
Smith’s near perfect score was duplicated and bested by one other bowler that day as Garden City’s Kaden Whitehurst bowled a 300 in his second game.
For the Blue Jays, the day started slow with the team sitting in ninth place early in the competition after shooting a 806, 140 pins from first place.
“That's probably nerves,” Adams said. “We came in at practice and we threw 100 strikes in practice. Then they start competition, when it really counts, and everybody tightened up a little bit. And it went straight out the window. I mean it's opposite, when we were at home the other day we came out of the gates and we shot our highest game of the year. On the very first game and then went downhill. Well, we were a little backwards here we came in tight started at 806 our first game, went to an 865 the second game and then the last game, we probably shoot a school record, 980. We probably beat every team in here that last game by 100 pins. So we just got a slow start — I think was just nerves.”
Adams said the strong finish to the year will serve as a motivator to the underclassmen on the team who will return next year with a lot of varsity experience under their belts.
“I think Logan and TJ will be back next year, and they're gonna be sophomores next year, but they're gonna have to lead whoever else is with us,” he said. “I’m super proud of all my seniors. Most improved over the years, Jessup Ray — he's changed styles a few times, and from the beginning of this year til the end of this year he is absolutely the most improved that we've had. CJ today bowled phenomenal, and he has the ability to bowl like that all the time and just hasn't done it yet, but he did it today when it counted. So, it's all good.”