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Veterans lead charge into match play

On a day when it seemed the Buffalo contingent with its home-court advantage was going to dominate the opening day of the GEICO Classic at AMF Thruway Lanes, reality reared its head.

Reality came in the form of some of the battle-hardened pros on the Denny's PBA Tour.

Patrick Allen of Tarrytown topped the qualifying with 3,409 total pins, a 243.5 average for 14 games. Veteran campaigner Norm Duke of Clermont, Fla., was next with 3,395, followed by veterans Steve Jaros, Brian Voss, David Traber and Jason Couch.

The Buffalo herd made it interesting, though. Led by amateur Ryan Ciminelli of Cheektowaga, who qualified seventh, four of the six locals advanced to this morning's round of 32 in match play.

Ciminelli led the qualifying after he started the evening session with games of 279 and 247, but he couldn't keep up the pace.

Jack Jurek of Lackawanna (13th with 3,223), Buffalo's Tom Baker (24th with 3,162) and Lockport's Brad Angelo (32nd with 3,114) made it.

Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga missed the cut by five pins while Joe Ciccone of Buffalo was 27 pins off the cut mark.

Angelo staged the most dramatic comeback of all. He stood in 40th place going into his final game but bowled a 247 to sneak into the field. He will face Allen in the first round.

Allen would just as soon not go into match play as the No. 1 seed.

"You're setting yourself up for disaster," he said. "As the No. 1 seed you're supposed to win, but it doesn't always work out that way. Going against Brad Angelo with the home crowd behind him is not necessarily a good thing."

Ciminelli had games of 204 and 213 before reluctantly making a ball change and finishing with a 248.

"Uncertainty [was the problem]," Ciminelli said. "I had success with the same ball all day, so I didn't think I needed to change. I should have trusted my instincts, though, and made a change sooner."

Although he scored well Wednesday and Thursday on his home lanes, the 19-year-old Erie Community College student doesn't expect anything to come easily today in match play.

"These guys are a whole other step up. Every match will be a tough one," he said.

After the seven-game block in the afternoon, the Buffalo contingent appeared in good shape. Ciminelli stood in third place with a 251.4 average. He was 33 pins behind Jaros, who led with a 255.86 pace. Ciccone was tied for ninth, Johnson was 11th, Angelo was 16th and Jurek was 24th. Baker was 25th after a 300 game, his 41st on the tour, lifted him into contention.

"[The perfect game] put me back in the hunt," said Baker, who in the night session finished strong again with a 255, 246 and 224 to get off the bubble.

With the Buffalo group near the top, there were some big names lurking in the bottom half of the leader board -- Pete Weber, Parker Bohn III, Chris Barnes, Wes Malott, Walter Ray Williams, Mike Scroggins, Ryan Shafer, Patrick Healey Jr. and last week's U.S. Open winner, Tommy Jones. Weber, Bohn, Malott and Scroggins ended up getting to match play. Williams, Jones, Barnes, Healey and Shafer did not.

A 168 and a 178 spoiled Johnson's effort. A 246 in her sixth game brought her close.

Ciccone struggled with two 184 games and a 183 in the final session.

After he watched Ciccone leave an 8-pin in the ninth frame of his final game when a strike was badly needed, Jurek pointed out one of the disadvantages of the home court.

"It's really tough when you don't make it. That's the hard part about being at home," Jurek said. "You have your family and friends all there to see, and it's very disappointing when you don't make it."

There will be three match play rounds today -- one at 9 a.m., the second at 2 p.m. and the third at 7 p.m. -- to decide the four competitors for the televised championship finals Sunday on ESPN (12:30 p.m.).

e-mail: mnorthrop@buffnews.com

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