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Milt Northrop’s Bowling: ECC remembered as pacesetter as JUCO nationals hit town

Domination and dynasties are nice, but sports really isn’t fun without good competition.

Erie Community College used to be the dominant force in junior college bowling. The late Kerm Helmer and the leaders that followed him did such a good job of building the sport that others, especially in New York State, tried to emulate the Kats’ success over the years. They succeeded, in many cases.

That will be evident next week when the 46th National Junior College Athletic Association Invitational Bowling Championships come to AMF Airport Lanes on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

In the early years of the tournament, Niagara County CC challenged ECC. Then Mohawk Valley CC and Hudson Valley CC interrupted ECC’s run of championships on the women’s side. As for the men, Vincennes University from Hoosier basketball country rose up and got so good that it no longer competes on the two-year school level and has narrowed its focus on competition against four-year schools.

Now another giant has arisen in the Empire State. The Schenectady County CC men’s and women’s teams will come to town next week favored to defend the team titles they won last year. And they bring back both the men’s and women’s individual all-events winners.

Andrew Marotta of Schenectady swept the men’s singles, doubles and all-events titles last year and is back to defend. However, Marotta did not win any of those titles in the NJCAA Region 3 tournament last week in Utica. Schenectady teammates Justin Carl and Zack Porter finished 1-2 in both singles and all-events while Carl and Nick Peckowitz won the doubles, with Marotta teaming with Corey Hommel to finish second. That’s a packed lineup.

Janelle Irwin of Schenectady won singles and all-events in last year’s nationals and is back, but she will be challenged by a newcomer, Emily Notebaert, a freshman at Corning CC, who averaged a national record 240.6 bowling for Gates-Chili High in the Rochester area. Irwin won singles at the regionals in Utica, but Notebaert won doubles with Victoria Maracle and took the all-events title.

Schenectady’s women, ranked 20th in the nation among all collegiate teams, captured the team title in the regionals by 406 pins over Corning. On the men’s side, the Schenectady men, ranked 30th among all college teams, took the men’s regional team title by a whopping 954 pins over runner-up Mohawk Valley.

As for ECC, the Kats were a distant third in the women’s team scoring and fourth in the men’s, 1,351 pins behind the winner.

ECC’s last men’s title, No. 18, was in 2011. The women took their 29th national crown in 2014. Last ECC male to win NJCAA all-events was David Zajac in 2011. Gabrielle Damin won women’s all-events in 2014.

Best hope for ECC is sophomore Dana Voytovich, who was fifth in singles (832) and 11th in all-events (1,530), teamed with Dan Streer for 10th in doubles in Utica and leads the Kats in average.

The ECC men’s lineup is also expected to include Reed Pepe (Bishop Timon-St. Jude), Aaron Makowski (Cheektowaga), Tom Kress (Cheektowaga), Matt Makowski (Cheektowaga), Ryan Kress (Cheektowaga) and Mike Piccirilli.

Amanda Hoadley (Kenmore West) of ECC was sixth in singles (715) and all-events (1,383) at the Region 3 tournament. Hoadley paired with Abigail Smith (Hamburg) for seventh in doubles (1,243). Others in the Kats’ lineup next weekend are expected to be: Kasey Schulz (Immaculata), Tamiya Pierce (Niagara Falls) and Ally Clement (Dunkirk).

The junior college teams will start arriving on Thursday for practice rounds. Competition begins with doubles, singles and a five-bowler, three-game team block. The NJCAA banquet will be Friday night at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens. Competition winds up Saturday with another five-bowler, three-game team block, then three blocks of three games in the Baker team format.

Dolan toppled

Tony Dolan stretched his winning streak to four games on the Beat the Champ show last week before running into Brandy Korcykowski of East Amherst, another left-hander. Korczykowski triumphed, 244-203. Dolan had defeated Shawn Bender of Tonawanda, 193-154, and Mike Mallwitz of Grand Island, 224-214.

The Week Seven show, taped last month from Kerns Avenue Bowling Center, will find Korczykowski defending against a field that includes Moe Davidson Jr. of Buffalo, Jeff Dio of Pendleton and John Palmer of Cheektowaga.

Qualifying last weekend at Transit Lanes determined the nine bowlers for the Beat the Champ shows in March.

The field will include a mixture of veterans and two college-aged stars. Qualifiers with their scores: Mike Zarcone 761, Matt Zasowski 759, Dolan 750, William Gearhart 728, Myles Smith 712, John Masiello 710, Korczykowski 701, Chad Mee 700 and Andrew Herbert 688.

The March qualifying will be held at Lucky Lanes in Fredonia, March 12-13.

Ciminelli’s 300 locks up No. 1 seed

Cheektowaga’s Ryan Ciminelli advanced to the top spot for Sunday’s stepladder finals (1 p.m., ESPN) of the Barbasol PBA Players Championship with a 300 in his final game Friday night. Ciminelli’s total for 48 games (16-7-1 match play record) was 12,048, 70 pins ahead of Graham Fach of Ontario, Canada. As the top seed, Ciminelli needs to win just one match to take the title.

Also bowling Sunday will be Sam Cooley of Australia (third), Jesper Svensson of Sweden (fourth) and Norm Duke of Clermont, Fla. (fifth).

In the afternoon session, Ciminelli played a showdown match with another Western New York favorite, John Szczerbinski of North Tonawanda. They tied at 217 each.

Pin chasers

• The Greater Buffalo USBC Association has walk-in openings for Sunday’s 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. squads in its Me & Mine Tournament going on at AMF Airport Lanes. Also, the GBUSBC has added a 4:30 p.m. squad on April 17 for the Stan Kowalski Senior Open Singles Tournament at Wimbledon Lanes in West Seneca. Those with confirmed reservations for other squads can switch to 4:30 p.m. Sunday if they wish. Competition will be April 16-17.

• The first event of the new Greater Buffalo Bowlers Tour will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday at the Broadway Sports Center.