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Orchard Park boys bowling's perfect ending is within reach

The perfect season for any team is one that ends with a championship coronation.

That's the finish Orchard Park's boys bowling team aspires to attain and it just happens to be within its grasp. That's provided the Quakers can continue doing what they've been doing against Western New York competition all season.

Win.

If Orchard Park just wins the next tournament on its schedule, it'll do something no Orchard Park boys bowling team has done before in finishing first at the annual Section VI Tournament.

The event begins at 9 a.m. Wednesday at Airport Lanes with the top large and small school teams at the end of the grueling six-game day advancing to the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Championships March 10-11 at the OnCenter in Syracuse.

"I've learned over the last 17 years of coaching people that it's anybody's game," OP coach Joe Biondo said. "People can talk about Orchard Park being a favorite, but Frontier still has an excellent team, Iroquois … You have Niagara Falls with six guys who average about 200. … Anything can happen."

The Quakers learned that lesson first hand at last year's sectional tournament when it was deemed one of the favorites. They had an off day, finishing eighth and watching West Seneca West leave as champion. A Class D team (Frewsburg) and Class C squad (Fredonia) both finished ahead of OP.

The results serve as reminder that it takes a total team effort to win. They also serve as a reminder that if a team happens to have a solid but unheralded bowler or two get on a hot streak during tournament play, that too can be enough to produce a triumphant moment. If one or two happen to be off, it could be a long day.

"There are always teams who come out of nowhere you wouldn't think of who compete," Niagara Falls coach Ed Ventry said. "It definitely is unpredictable with the competitive oil pattern, it levels the playing field.

Ventry said a 200 game at sectionals is like rolling 220 during the regular season.

"It really comes down to spares and grinding it out because scores aren't going to be as high as they usually are," Ventry said. "Kids who can accept that usually do well."

Last year's sectional tournament experience, an eighth-place finish, has served as a motivator throughout the season for Orchard Park.

"When they got on the bus, before we left a couple of the kids said to themselves 'we beat ourselves,'" Biondo said. "I said 'it's up to you guys to change that. I can give you all the tools and all the drills and everything else but it has to come from within if you really want to improve.'"

The Quakers took that to heart.

Good bowlers got better over the summer via lessons. They prepared for practices like they were matches. The good practice habits by the returnees rubbed off on the younger bowlers.

The results?

OP's top four of Thomas Klenke (223 average), Kyle Couell (216), Nate Nahrebeski (216) and Colton Little (211) increased their respective averages by 10-12 pins from last year, according to Biondo.

The Quakers also won their division with a 12-0 record. More impressive than that, they won three of four in-season tournaments they've entered, including the season-opening Maryvale Tournament and the inaugural Section VI Invitational on Feb. 3. OP finished second at the Festival of Lights Tournament, which was won by a team from Rochester-area Section V.

Orchard Park finished 433 pins ahead of the next closest Section VI team nearly two weeks ago at Airport Lanes – which served as a warm up for Wednesday's tournament as it was bowled on the same pattern that will be used to determine which teams and individual bowlers advance to states.

"It's my last hurrah, so I want to make the most of it," said Klenke, a two-time state tourney participant as an individual. "As a team we've done what we want. … We've picked each other up. … It's not finished yet."

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