Friday, February 19, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> CHS bowlers keep racking up state titles

Leader sports editor

Cabot’s first-year bowling coach Clark Bing didn’t want to use the word, but the Panther bowling teams are indeed becoming a dynasty. On Wednesday at the All-Fam Bowling Center in Cabot, the Panther boys’ and girls’ teams each won their fifth state championship.

For the boys, it was the fifth title in a row, while the girls won their fifth in the last nine years while winning back-to-back state titles for the first time. Each year in the last nine that the Lady Panthers didn’t win the championship, they finished as runners-up.

Each team had to replace two of its best bowlers from last year, making this year’s titles even more impressive. The Cabot boys lost their conference tournament last week to Benton after falling behind early. In the state tournament, however, Cabot started well and held about a 200-pin lead after bowling a first-game total of 1,276.

Cabot’s Cole Stillman bowled a tournament total of 709 and was the boys’ gold medalist. He said the team was confident coming into state despite losing the conference tournament.

“There was some doubt at first (about being able to win a fifth-straight championship) but after conference we figured out what we were doing wrong,” said Stillman. “We weren’t really focused as a team. We were competing against each other instead of competing as a team. We talked about that and were ale to finish strong and do what we had to do.”

Bing was disappointed in his boys’ effort at Benton, but also knew they still had a great chance to win state.

“What we took from last week was that we got beat, but we didn’t bowl our best efforts,” said Bing. “And that’s what we took into this week. You know, if we get beat and give it our best, we’ll live with it. But our best is good enough to win. We jumped out, got off to a good start and everybody was chasing us. That’s a good feeling to have. We you get a lead; other teams are to have all the pressure on them. They’re going to have to pick their game up and hope we a down once, and we just never had a down one – boys or girls. The girls got out to a lead, too.”

Senior Micah Perry won the girls’ gold medal with a three-game total of 685. She bowled a 216, 224 and 185. The Lady Panthers’ third game was by far their worst, but the lead was too large for competition to overcome. Cabot’s girls started with 1,086, then 1,034 and finished with a 915. Baker game scores were 201, 175, 138 and 175 again for a total of 3,724.

“It’s pretty great,” said Perry. “It feels amazing since it’s a great way to send me out with a bang. We needed two girls to step up to replace our two lost starters, and we got that.”

The boys’ scores also went down each time, from the opening 1,276 to a 1,209 to a 1,164, but Stillman’s last two games were phenomenal. He started with a 194 before bowling a 269 and finishing with a 246. Baker’s scores were 225, 183, 184 and 206 for a tournament total of 4,447.

Josh Imhoff and Lauren Bunting, both gold medalists in last week’s conference tournament, were silver medalists at state.

Bunting said the girls’ team believed all year it could become the first Cabot girls’ team to repeat as champs, and thinks they can do it again.

“We’ve been talking about it all year,” said Bunting. “I think it’s pretty cool we won it back to back, especially since we worked so hard as a team. I think we’ll have the capability to three-peat even though we’re losing two of our star players. I think we have a couple people coming in who are going to be really good.”