The difference between winning and losing in sports is often measured in inches.
An inch to the right and the towering fly ball sails to the right instead of tapping the dirty poll for a game-winning home run in baseball.
An inch to the left and the buzzing clap shot hits the goal post instead of the back of the net in hockey.
That was the case on Sunday in the Oakland County Girls Bowling Championship semifinal match play at Cherry Hill Lanes in Clarkston.
Lake Orion won the tournament, beating Farmington Hills Mercy, 342-301, in the two-game total pins title match.
However, long-time Lake Orion head coach Denny O’Neill pointed to a key frame in the semifinal round match with South Lyon.
Sophomore Paige Morris had to convert a 1-2-4-10 spare, a shot that took precision to complete.
One inch in either direction and the 10-pin remains.
Why was that shot so important?
“We beat South Lyon by one pin in total,” said O’Neill.
An inch off and South Lyon will face Mercy instead of the Dragons for the team title.
Lake Orion won that semifinal match, 349-348, setting the stage for the Dragons and Mercy in the title match.
The Dragons won the 15th annual countywide tournament. South Lyon finished third, beating South Lyon East in the consolation game (386-318)
Qualifying consisted of three games of five bowlers and four baker games.
The top 10 games and series thrown in the qualifying were awarded with medals. The top 16 qualifying teams were grouped into bracket format, with two-game match play with total pins determining which teams advanced.
Lake Orion came in fifth from the qualifying round.
Before defeating South Lyon and Mercy, the Dragons Madison Heights knocked out Bishop Foley in the opening round (338-234) and North Farmington (373-279) in the quarterfinals.
How did they do it?
“It helps to have talent,” O’Neill said in a phone interview. “We had a bowler who threw the best game of the day (junior Ella Terenzi, 277), we had another bowl a top-10 game (senior Faith Washington, 210, 10th) and three finished in the top 10 in the total series (Terenzi, 626, second), junior Kalie Harris, 538, sixth, and Washington, 530, eighth).
“It helps to have bowlers with a lot of skill,” O’Neill said. “We have the potential to do good things. Winning the county should give the girls some confidence as we head to the regional games in Lansing and the state tournament at Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park.”
In addition to Terenzi, Harris, Washington and Morris, Tess Pero and Amber Gorski complete the Lake Orion team.
A number of other teams and individuals also stood out during Sunday’s tournament.
The best individual performance came from South Lyon senior Ava Crumley, who rolled a run of three games of 706, 80 pins better than her closest competitor. Crumley recorded scores of 266, 267 and 173,
Crumley was joined in the top 10 by teammate Suzie Beck (531, fifth).
Mercy also had two players finish in the top 10 with Abby Worley (594, fourth) and Claire Zahra (529, ninth).
Also earning individual medals were Naomi Rogers of North Farmington (613, third); Jaida Van Amberg from South Lyon East (538, seventh); Madison Kortman of Clarkston (521, 10th).
In the team’s qualifying round, the schools that advanced to match play in order were: South Lyon, Mercy, South Lyon East, North Farmington, Lake Orion, Waterford Kettering, Oxford, Farmington, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, Clarkston, Milford, Bishop Foley, Hazel Park, Waterford Mott, Lakeland and Royal Oak.