By Ben Stroup
The Buckeye Valley girls bowling team is headed back to states, rolling to a third-place finish during the Division II District Tournament Thursday at HP Lanes.
“If you asked me at the beginning of the season if we were going to return to the state tournament, I would’ve said there is a lot of work ahead of us,” BV coach Madonna Wells said. “Four of the eight girls have never been on the bowling team.”
The Barons followed up a solid regulation round with a steady handful of baker games to hold onto the final state-qualifying spot with a combined 3,387. Northmor, which beat BV at last week’s sectional, finished fourth with a 3,378.
“Today was about pin count and these girls bowled the best bakers of the season to get themselves in position to go back to the tournament,” Wells said. “We struggled on hitting our mark today, but we stayed close enough to the pocket to pick up the spares we needed.”
Morgan Stuart, who was the top individual at sectionals by 100-plus pins, finished second among the loaded district field with a 589 series. The senior rolled a stellar 236 in her first game before adding efforts of 163 and 190 in her second and third. Elgin junior Kierstyn Graber was the top individual, finishing with a 590.
Tara McClure, who stepped up in a big way, also made some serious noise for the Barons. The sophomore finished ninth among individuals with games of 130, 189 and 190 — efforts good enough for a combined 509. Not bad, especially considering she finished 34th with a three-game total of 430 at sectionals.
“Tara came up big all day … and she didn’t let me down with a beautiful strike to set up Morgan, who threw the first one flesh in the pocket and tripped the four pin for the turkey,” Wells said. “Just for good measure, she threw the last one to have the last four strikes with a 158 game. Tara was the spark plug they needed today; she didn’t feel well, but wanted to stay in the game knowing we needed her.
“I’m so proud of these girls. All I can say is we dreamed big and it came true.”
Buckeye Valley was in second place after an 808-pin first game. It dropped a couple spots after posting a 784 in the second game, but rebounded well with an 805 in the third.
The Barons rolled baker games of 181, 172, 165, 160, 154 and 158 to account for their team total.
Carly Kelley (472 series) and Sydney Lenart (440) joined Stuart and McClure as BV’s top contributors.
Jonathan Alder won the event with a combined 3,821 while Elgin nabbed runner-up honors with a 3,470.
Next up, Buckeye Valley will roll in the 2015-16 State Bowling Championship Saturday, Feb. 27 at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl. The qualifying round is slated to start at 10:30 a.m.
The appearance will mark the third straight season the Barons have made it to the state showcase. They finished 15th with a 2,727 in last year’s qualifying round.
Buckeye Valley’s boys team will open its postseason today in the Division I sectional tourney at Palace Lanes. Big Walnut, Liberty, Orange, Hayes and Olentangy will also be in action, with the schools’ girls set to take the stage Saturday.
Follow Ben Stroup on Twitter @delgazette_ben.