Wednesday, January 20, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> CHS eyes bowling hardware

Leader sports editor

The Cabot bowling teams are undefeated so far this season after adding wins over Riverview and Benton last week at Allfam Bowling Center in Cabot. The Panther boys are the four-time defending state champions and have no intentions of letting that streak end this year. Last year’s championship team lost its top bowler, but brings back most everyone else who played a key role in last year’s title-winning performance.

First-year coach Clark Bing believes his group should be one of the leading contenders again this year.

“I think beating Benton is a good measuring stick because they’re always pretty good,” said Bing. “Benton has won a state championship and finished runner-up to us a couple years running. Of course, you never know what’s going to come out of the West (Conference). But we should be up there for sure.”

Bing says consistency is the key to a fifth-straight championship. Though undefeated, bowlers weren’t keeping scores up from one game to the next early on. The head coach sees that changing.

“For example, Josh Imhoff had a very good day last Thursday,” Bing said. “He went 267 and 268 in consecutive games. It’s hard to repeat when you bowl that well, and to bowl on pin better said a lot about how focused he was and was able to maintain it. We’re seeing that a little more.”

Imhoff, a sophomore, had the high score in the conference meet last year as a freshman. Senior Blake Palladino and junior Cole Stillman have also shown increased steadiness.

“We talk a lot about bowling above your average at game time,” Bing said. “We’re starting to see that more and more. Keaton Hayes is another kid that had a very good day last Friday. He bowled well above his average in both games against Benton.”

No one has approached record-breaking scores like Cayden Cook did in Cabot’s 2014 championship. The 2015 team managed another title without that kind of performance, and Bing believes this group can do the same after losing another top senior.

“There’s no one standout,” Bing said. “It’s been different people here and there playing above their average, and that’s our goal right now.”

On the girls’ side, Hayleigh Baugh, Micah Perry and Emily Tripp are leading the way. Sophomore Olivia New came through with a 199 against Benton, which is not her best game ever, but above her average. The Lady Panthers have also won four state championships, but never back-to-back. They have alternated between champion and runner-up the last eight years.

“I think we definitely have the potential to repeat,” Bing said. “Like I said, you never know what’s coming from the West. And if we go out there and all bowl above our average and get beat, you just have to congratulate the winner. If we go out there and don’t bowl well, that’s our fault. So we’re working hard right now on being consistent and limiting those lapses.”

Cabot has a few more matches before the conference meet at Maumelle on Feb. 12. The Panthers will host the 7A/6A state tournament at Allfam on Feb. 17.