By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
After spending the entire season on top of the team rankings, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see Glendale capture the No. 1 overall seed in Tuesday’s Show Me High School Bowling final — a best-of-three series between the tournament’s top two teams.
The surprise happened when No. 5 Nixa stunned the Falcons in game one 220-182 to take a 1-0 series lead.
Noticing a host of anxious faces throughout his team, Glendale head coach Mike Freeman calmed and refocused the young Falcon squad.
“I told them to relax and be themselves,” Freeman said. “When they’re loose, they’ve done their very, very best all year long. A famous PBA announcer once said, ‘Trust is a must, or your game is a bust.’ I’ve used that phrase all year long with them.”
With Nixa hoping to maintain its momentum, Glendale’s team of Hailey Collins, Chloe Dudley, Zack Hale, Spencer Jurgensmeyer and Joe Kessack found itself in unfamiliar waters.
A recipient for highest girls average earlier in the evening, Dudley echoed her coach’s comments.
“We were really nervous,” Dudley said. “But then we were like, ‘It’s OK … it’s just two out of three. Everybody relax and everybody be themselves.’ We really relaxed and had fun; frame-by-frame, just did what we needed to do.”
Merely reaching the final proved to be a considerable achievement for Nixa, according to head coach Shannon Burns, as the Eagles were forced to run through a gauntlet of progressively-better teams in the process.
“That was absolutely amazing,” Burns said. “If you would have asked me after our first regular game tonight if we’d have been there, I’d have probably told you ‘no.’”
Known as a stepladder bracket, the top seed after a qualifying round stands by while lower seeds battle through successive matches. The winner advances to face the next highest seed, and the loser goes home.
Nixa’s Jenna Evans, Melia Richardson, Cory Beaver, Cory Guerra and Andrew Murphy-Ward notched a trio of upsets over No. 4 Parkview, No. 3 Central and No. 2 Kickapoo to reach the final match.
“We told them each game was just practice,” Burns said. “This is just practice for state. I heard a quote, ‘All it takes is all you got,’ and that’s what I kept telling them.”
Nixa strung together an impressive run of strikes during the opening game; however, Glendale rallied behind solid, consistent play to win the second game 186-157 and tie the series at one game each.
Consistent spares proved to be much more valuable than strikes in the final, according to Freeman.
“It came down to spare-shooting,” Freeman said. “Our experience going to state last year — and our competition throughout the year — was about spare-shooting. The strikes are going to come. We’ve got really, really good bowlers. They trust their shot, and they just execute what they know how to do.”
That execution was put to the test in a pivotal game-three sequence.
After leaving the eight-pin on his first ball during Glendale’s fifth frame, a frustrated Jurgensmeyer became visibly agitated when a ball return malfunction caused a delay in the match.
Once again, Freeman urged his squad to be patient, relax and trust the process.
Jurgensmeyer’s second ball appeared to head straight for the gutter before veering away and cleaning the final pin from the leave. In a matter of seconds, the junior experienced a whirlwind of emotions.
“Whenever I throw my ball out, I throw it near the one board — which is the board on the right,” Jurgensmeyer said. “At first, whenever I threw it, I thought it was going to go in the gutter for sure, and I was really frustrated with myself. Then, when it came back and got the spare, I was overjoyed.”
A Nixa open frame gave the Falcons a golden opportunity, and Kessack was well up to the task.
Stepping quickly to the line after Jurgensmeyer’s spare, Glendale’s senior anchor buried his first ball square in the pocket to give the Falcons a follow-up strike to stretch the lead.
For Freeman, the spare simply reinforced his team mantra.
“An anchor bowler … that’s what you depend on them for,” Freeman said. “That’s what they execute for you, and Joey’s done that all year long. Again … it goes back to trust. In the final game, they weren’t getting strikes. We weren’t getting doubles or triples, or anything, but we made our spares. That was the difference in the game.”
Kessack punctuated the win with a final strike in the tenth frame, as well, giving the Falcons a 195-176 series-clinching victory.
“This is a game of knowledge,” Freeman said. “Ninety percent of this game is knowledge, and then they just execute with confidence. That’s what we did today.”
Republic, Willard, Ozark, Rogersville and Springfield Catholic all competed in Tuesday’s qualifying rounds.
Show Me High School Bowling 2018 Finals – Stepladder Bracket
(4) Parkview – 160
(5) Nixa – 177
(3) Central – 164
(5) Nixa – 186
(2) Kickapoo – 160
(5) Nixa – 164
Final Round – Game One
(1) Glendale – 182
(5) Nixa – 220
Final round – Game Two
(1) Glendale – 186
(5) Nixa – 157
Final round – Game Three
(1) Glendale – 195
(5) Nixa – 176