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Bowling: Johnson, Angelo make their marks in national tournaments

The events this week in the GEICO PBA World Series of Bowling VI offered plenty of proof that Western New York still is very relevant in professional bowling circles.

Brad Angelo of Lockport and Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga will compete in the television finals of two tournaments. Both are in the finals of the PBA Cheetah Championship, which will be bowled today at South Point Bowling Center in Las Vegas. Also, Johnson will be one of three bowlers in Sunday’s World Bowling Tour Women’s Finals. She already has finished tied for fifth in the Women’s PBA Regional Challenge finals.

This weekend’s finals will be taped for later showing on the PBA’s Sunday series on ESPN – the Cheetah on Dec. 14, the WBT finals on Jan. 25.

Although he did not make any of the animal pattern TV finals (Cheetah, Viper, Chameleon or Scorpion), John Szczerbinski of North Tonawanda was the most consistent area bowler over the four events. The 26-year-old former Wichita State All-American made the second round of qualifying for two of the four – 16th in the Cheetah and second in the Scorpion.

He ended up cashing in the Cheetah (21st for $1,275) and the Scorpion (10th for $2,000).

His total of 6,333 for 28 first-round games (226 average) across the four animal pattern events earned him a place in the PBA World Championship. That will be decided with a five-bowler stepladder finals on Jan. 11 from South Point live on ESPN.

Szczerbinski qualified ninth and finished 19th with 11,728 points (including bonus pins) after going 11-13 in three rounds of match play. That earned him $3,500. He scored a match victory over Hall of Famer Pete Weber and bowled a pair of 290 games.

The World Championship finalists are Wes Malott, Mike Fagan, Ronnie Russell, Todd Book and Stuart Williams of Great Britain, in that order.

Ryan Ciminelli got past the first round in only one event, the Viper, qualifying 18th but finishing 22nd to collect $1,250.

Johnson will be the No. 4 seed for today’s Cheetah championship. If she wins her match against No. 3 Anthony Pepe from Elmhurst on Long Island, she will face No. 2 Angelo in the second round with the winner moving on to the title match against Dick Allen of Columbia, S.C.

According to the PBA, Johnson’s dramatic climb from 24th place to the No. 4 slot in Viper attracted the largest crowd of spectators ever for a World Series event at South Point. She averaged 261.6 over the final five games, striking twice in the 10th game of her final game to knock Weber out of the TV show. Others in the history of the PBA have advanced from 24th to a place in the TV finals, but no one had done it in a non-match play situation without benefit of bonus pins.

The top prize is worth $20,000 in each of the finals.

Johnson would need only two victories to collect the $20,000 for the WBT Women’s title. She is assured of at least $5,000 for third.

Liz will face Sweden’s Sandra Andersson in the first match. The winner will face Kelly Kulick for the title. Mika Koivuniemi, Sean Rash and Jason Belmonte are the men’s WBT finalists.

Each WBT final will feature a unique, experimental scoring system. Instead of total pinfall, each match will be decided frame-by-frame, similar to match play in golf. The match will be 12 frames, with additional frames in case of a tied match.

“We believe we have found the right balance between modernizing our sport while retaining credibility and tradition our athletes and fans value,” said World Bowling President and CEO Kevin Dornberger. “All of us involved with this project are looking forward to its introduction in Las Vegas.”

Pin calendar

• The Greater Buffalo USBC Association Senior Women’s Singles Championship is today and Sunday at Spare Time Bowling Center. The GBUSBC Family Tournament will be Nov. 15-16 at AMF Thruway Lanes in Cheektowaga.

• The Mark Roth Plastic Ball Tournament and fundraiser will be at Broadway Sports Center from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Cost for the event is $20. Entry to the tournament is $30.

• The GBUSBC Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Dinner will take place at 7 p.m. Nov. 29 at Samuel’s Grande Manor. The inductees include Dave Guindon, Sue Nawojski, Kevin Iwaniak and Laurie Sutton in the bowling performance category, Frank Coburn and Dave Miller for meritorious service and Butch Benhatzel and Kay Jeziorski in the veterans ability section.

• The Erie Community College men’s and women’s teams will open their seasons next weekend in the Big Red Invitational at Cort-Lanes in Cortland. The ECC women are two-time defending NJCAA champions.