Spain Park had to take down a familiar foe to claim its third boys state bowling championship.
The Jaguars went head-to-head with crosstown rival Hoover in the finals and prevailed in a thrilling match to claim the Class 6A/7A title in the Alabama High School Athletic Association 2022 State Bowling Championships Jan. 28 at the Alley Bowling Center in Gadsden.
“As we like to say at Spain Park, it’s always a good day to beat Hoover,” Spain Park coach Stephen Hobbs said.
It didn’t come easy. The Bucs came close to perfection in game three of the match, with its five bowlers knocking down 10 strikes in a row en route to a 2-1 lead in the finals.
Hoover bowlers AJ Nelson, Connor Davis, Rhett Pearson, Carter Hughes and Alex Lee combined for two strikes each. But the bid for the AHSAA’s first perfect 300 game as a team came up short when the Bucs, coached by Dustin Edgar, left two pins standing on the 11th roll to finish with a state-record 288-203 victory.
The Jags were unfazed by the Bucs’ historic game. Spain Park’s strong lineup of Russell Partin, Lucas Mitchell, Cole Henson, Ethan Lee and Michael Kimble responded with nine strikes to win the next game 279-188 to tie the contest at 2-2. The Jags clinched the championship by taking game five 246-191 and game six 201-143 for a 4-2 victory in the best-of-seven final series of Baker games.
It was the Jags’ third state title overall but the first since winning consecutive titles in 2016 and 2017, the first two years the AHSAA offered bowling as a championship sport.
“I’m really excited because our other two state championships came at the beginning of bowling as a championship sport, and the competition has gotten a lot better since then,” Hobbs said. “To win now you have to put it all together.
“There was a lot of pressure because we were going against Hoover. Their coach is a former student of mine at Spain Park. He’s done a good job.”
Hoover finished as the runner-up for the second straight season.
Praise for Novices at State
Hobbs praised his bowlers since the tournament was a new experience for them.
“None of these guys had ever been to state before, so for them to come out and bowl like they did, I could not be more proud,” he said. “Our two seniors, Cole Henson and Russell Partin didn’t start bowling until last year. They did a good job of leading us.
“Cole was on the JV (junior varsity) until the end of last year, but he fell in love with the sport and really dedicated himself to it. Russell is our lead off guy. He starts us off with a strike just about every game.”
Henson was the top medalist with a total score of 683, 20 pins better than Hoover’s Lee. The Bucs’ Hughes was fourth with a three-game total of 621.
Hobbs complimented volunteer assistant Lillian Singleton for her efforts to help the Jags win the crown.
“I need to give a lot of the credit to Lillian,” Hobbs said. “She is there every practice and every match, teaching technique to the kids. Without her, we wouldn’t be state champs.”
In the Class 6A/7A girls competition, both Vestavia Hills and Spain Park were eliminated by Stanhope Elmore, with the Rebels falling in the quarterfinals and Jags in the semifinals.
Stanhope Elmore lost to Sparkman 4-0 in the finals as the Lady Senators won their second consecutive Class 6A/7A title.
Spain Park’s Emma Hawkins placed third among the 6A/7A girls individual medalists with a three-game total of 561, breaking a program record with her 244 in the second game.