Perhaps Peter LaBella Jr. had to take more time off from the game as idleness certainly got in the way as he took the best places for Saturday’s New Years Classic final at Rab’s Country Lanes.
In fact, the 35-year-old former Islander, who has been bowling his high school at Curtis and Tottenville, fired his first 800 series on the opening weekend of qualifying.
The right, bowling scraper, ran the pins for cover with an 813 set. That pinfall was good enough to secure the No. 1 seed and place the proverbial target on LaBella’s back en route to the 1 p.m. 24-man final in the 46th year of the Jim Elliott-run event.
LaBella thanks his father, Pete Sr., for finally recording his first 800 set.
“He’s been with me from day one, teaching me a lot of exercises to do at home without even hitting the alleys,” said LaBella, a former Advance All-Star kegler, who played back-to-back Staten Island PSAL Individual won crowns in 2002-03.
His run of over 800 surpassed his previous high of 793, thrown four times.
The pinfall came as a surprise to the Brick, NJ native, who has been out of the game for a few years for good reason.
“I’m not bowling in any competition because I have two little girls, and between juggling work and parenthood I really don’t have time,” explains LaBella. “I haven’t bowled Jim Elliott’s Single Classics in years before I bowled in them two years ago. I bowled 736 and made it to the final and lost the first game to Steve Soss (who eventually won in 2020 and is in the final this time).”
Top class or not, LaBella will have to continue his fine bowling in the star-studded finals field. And after bowling on Staten Island for the better part of the past 30 years, LaBella knows almost everyone in the finals, especially Mike Endress and Sean McAuliffe.
“Some of the top 24 bowlers I have a lot of history with,” he said. “I bowled with Mike Endress in high school on the same team (at Tottenville). Sean — I’ve bowled with and against it for years.”
There are also other great keglers in this final, such as six-time NYSC champion George Cretella, Jeff Scire, Tim McAuliffe and Dan Dunleavy.
“To win this event, I have to take some great shots and try to stay nice and firm and do everything I can to stay as clean as possible,” said LaBella.
LaBella says he fears no one in the field, but respects everyone.
“We are all human and anyone can beat anyone every day,” he said. “I throw the shot at hand, no opponent is a robot. We all know that Jeff Scire and George Cretella are the men to beat in this tournament. Hopefully they bowl against each other.
“It was great bowling through the top 24 finalists and whoever wears that day will be the winner.”
COMMENTS: In addition to Cretella and Soss, previous winners in the final are Tim McAuliffe, Dunleavy and Don Pendleton… There are two sets of brothers in the final in Tim and Sean McAuliffe and Chris and Michael McNichol… Soss and finalist Alby Pezzella rolled in perfect games the qualification.