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Ciminelli had year to remember

Ryan Ciminelli's run to the finals of last week's PBA Tournament of Champions ended in a championship game loss to Sean Rash, who is one of the hottest bowlers on tour.

If Ciminelli had been able to pull off his second career title it would have extended to four the number of consecutive years a Western New York pro has won on the PBA Tour. Ciminelli won his first title in 2011. Jack Jurek won in 2010 and Brad Angelo in 2009. Not a season goes by without a local pro making it to at least one television final.

Next year? Who knows what the PBA Tour will look like.

Ciminelli was by far the most successful member of the Western New York contingent on the tour this year. He earned $40,000 for his runner-up finish in the TOC, pushing him to a career-best $64,545 for the limited (14 events) schedule. It also gives him a chance for more in 2012-13 because he will get a place in the Japan Cup when it resumes in the fall. Japan Cup, which invites the top 16 PBA Tour pros, has been on hiatus since the tragic tsunami in 2011.

Ciminelli averaged a career-best 226.34 for the tour season and made it to three finals.

Jurek, of Lackawanna, was next, picking up $17,155 for 14 events, and making one final, a fifth place in the Geico Shark Open.

Angelo competed in 14 events but cashed only eight times for $12,390.

Joe Ciccone, who entered only five events because he has been spending time working and learning in the PBA Tour's television production program, collected only $5,480.


Tour changes ahead

Several months ago, the PBA announced sweeping changes for the tour next season. The "exempt tour" concept that has been in place since 2004-05 is gone and all events will be truly open.

The abandoned format assured the exempt bowlers (they ranged in number between 49 and 57, depending on the year) of a place in each tour event and a guaranteed payday. Actually there were only two events during the last tour season where the exemptions came into effect.

Ranking high in competition points no longer will give a bowler exempt status but it still will be important, the PBA says. It will determine eligibility for the Dick Weber PBA Playoffs and the Elite Players Championship, which will have an exclusive field of only 36 bowlers.

The level of participation in tour events will determine whether a player will have Touring 1 or Touring 2 classification for which there will be membership benefits.


WNYers in postseason action

Three recent scholastic bowling standouts from Western New York have participated in major collegiate championships this season.

Two former Section VI all-stars, Jacqueline Willy (Clarence) and Savannah Zientara (Lewiston-Porter), bowled for Sacred Heart University (Conn.), which won the Northeast Conference title and earned a place in the national tournament.

The Pioneers were eliminated in the nationals by losses to eventual champion Maryland-Eastern Shore and Valparaiso. UMES defeated Fairleigh Dickinson (N.J.) in the nationally televised championship match.

In the loss to UMES in the best-of-seven Baker game format, Zientara, a senior, helped Sacred Heart come back from a 3-0 deficit to force a seventh game.

There are no automatic bids to the eight-team NCAA field, but Sacred Heart impressed the selection committee by going through the Northeast Conference Tournament with a 4-0 record and upsetting No. 1 seed Fairleigh Dickinson twice. Fairleigh Dickinson has ranked as high as No. 1 in national polls this season. Sacred Heart ranked as high as No. 2.

The Pioneers would not have made it without the help of Willy, a junior. She was a standout in the conference tournament. Bowling at the No. 4 spot in the Sacred Heart lineup, Willy struck on 13 of 16 attempts in the team's first two Baker matches and had 10 consecutive strikes at one point.

"I'm not trying to take away from our great team effort, but Willy was tremendous," said Pioneers coach Becky Kregling.

Brianna Larson (North Tonawanda) is a member of the University of Pikeville (Ky.) team that won the NAIA championship and is competing in the Intercollegiate Team Championships going on this week in Lincoln, Neb. Larson, a freshman, has had a difficult time cracking the star-studded Pikeville lineup recently.

UPike, as Pikeville calls itself, won the NAIA title three weeks ago, sweeping Webber International (Fla.) in the championship match in Indianapolis.