Monday, February 24, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot boys win a third title in a row

Leader sports editor

The Cabot boys’ bowling team won yet another state championship on Wednesday at Allfam Bowling Center in Cabot, and this year’s was won in unprecedented fashion. Not only did the team win its fourth state title in five years and third in a row, breaking the record set by Norfolk from 2008 to 2011, it demolished the overall pin record set by the same team last year.

The Panthers knocked down 4,880 pins, beating their own record of 4,854 set in last year’s state tournament. That total was also good for second-largest margin in state history, as they beat second-place Bentonville by 617 pins.

Cayden Cook also broke the pin record for an individual bowler by knocking down 842, including a 297 in his second game.

Cabot coach Mike Nash noted last week that the boys’ team average for the season was down 10 to 15 pins per player from last season. He said the likely reason was the series of cancellations that resulted in fewer matches, since he counts practice rounds into the team average. Nash said focus is usually better when there is outside competition.

His hunch proved true on Wednesday.

“It was amazing what they accomplished,” Nash said of the boys ‘championship performance. “With Cayden bowling his remarkable series, that offset probably 100 pins right there. Some of those other kids just rose to the challenge.”

Cook’s 297, just three pins shy of a perfect game, came in just the second game of the tournament, and went along with games of 268, 268 and 257 by his teammates.

With only Little Rock Catholic’s team separating Cabot from second-place Benton-ville, the only team that brought a real threat to Cabot’s championship defense, the Tigers had an up-close view of their title hopes being ripped away.

“After that, when those three went 297 and 268 right next to them, Bentonville was finished,” Nash said. “You could see it in their eyes, in their body language. They lost the pep in their step. I think they knew their chances of winning were very slim.”

After that second game, Cabot’s lead was already 372 pins.

Cook added games of 279 and 268 to his 297, breaking the old individual record of 806 set by Bryant Ezell of Fayetteville just last year.

Jace Jennings had Cabot’s second-highest total with 688, followed by Zac Couch’s 648. Nichols totaled 645 and Michael Nashed a 623.

The boys may be in for a rebuilding year next season. Four of those top five are seniors. Only Couch returns next year.

The Lady Panthers continued their history of alternating between championships and runner-up finishes, placing second behind Bentonville. It marks the sixth-straight year the Cabot girls have either won it or finished second. They won titles in 2009, 2011 and 2013, and took second in 2010, 2012 and this year.

Junior Allie Stalnaker had Cabot’s high score with a 567 and the Lady Panthers are losing only one senior in Miranda Antimo.

“Bentonville bowled its A game and we bowled our B game,” Nash said. “We simply did not pick our spares or take advantage of the opportunities given to us. We are a young team and we will make another good run at state next year. We seem to win state in odd years.”