Niagara-Wheatfield’s Nate Maloney won his third straight Section VI boys bowling title Thursday at AMF Airport Lanes while West Seneca West earned its first team title in more than 50 years.
Maloney needed big numbers in his final game to vault into first place during his sophomore and junior seasons, winning the title by 59 pins in 2015 and just 14 pins last year. But Thursday, he got to enjoy a big lead during the sixth and final game, winning the title with 1,263 total pins.
Frewsburg’s Joshua Snow jumped from fourth to second in the final game, finishing with 1,180 pins, while West Seneca West teammates Kyle Ziemba and Andrew Burckhalter took third and fourth with 1,174 and 1,162, respectively.
The only thing missing from Maloney’s six-year varsity career is a state title. He went to states with his sectional-champion Falcons as a seventh-grader and went as a top individual finisher in eighth grade. He missed qualifying as a freshman but responded by winning the individual title each of the last three seasons. He has two state silver medals to his name but hasn’t been able to come up with gold.
What’s his secret? Well, that’s a good question.
Maloney’s sport of choice is lacrosse, which he’ll play collegiately at Roberts Wesleyan. He picks up the bowling ball on the first day of tryouts in November and puts it away after states.
But his father, Rich – who took over as coach this season – works at Prime Time Pro Shop at Rapids Bowling Center in Niagara Falls and passed the game onto his son. He had Nate throwing balls by age 3, and a boyhood spent studying the game simply seems to have given Maloney more talent than his peers.
“I just think it’s natural ability,” Rich said, shaking his head. “I’ve been in the business since ’94 on and off … obviously once in a while you have to take your kid to work. He happened to just pick up a ball, and right away you could see he had something there and it just transpired. He put a little more time into it as a younger kid, threw the ball a lot more, put in 20 games a day. Just picking up the ball and winging it, it’s transpired to where he is today.”
“It means a lot winning it as father and son," Nate Maloney said. "He’s been there my whole life. Going through everything we’ve gone through, just bowling all my life and now he gets to do this, it’s pretty special.”
West Seneca West coach Brett Widman and assistant Brian Guise led a young team to the championship after an 11th place finish a year ago. Widman said their last title came in 1966, competing as a combined team from the West Seneca district.
Ziemba, a freshman, threw the high game of the day, rolling a 289 in his second game. He opened with a spare and followed it 10 consecutive strikes before leaving one pin in the 12th frame.
“He’s always a consistent bowler,” Widman said. “He’s normally on our ‘B’ team, makes an appearance on the ‘A’ team once in a while, but today was just his day. They all bowled well.”
Ziemba and Burckhalter led the team while Spencer Guise posted a 1,091 and Parker Flis put up 1,080. The rest of the team chipped in for a grand total of 5,534 pins, good for a 124-pin victory over Niagara Falls. Frewsburg took third.
The West Seneca West team will represent Section VI at the state championships, held at AMF Gates Lanes in Rochester on March 4 and 5. They’ll be joined by the Section VI all-star team, composed of Maloney, Snow, Trevor Watts (Niagara Falls), Malik Williams (Frewsburg), Bradon Badaszewski (Frontier) and Tom Klenke (Orchard Park).
West Seneca West also won the Class A title while Iroquois won Class B, Fredonia took Class C and Frewsburg repeated in Class D.