Orchard Park may have graduated a couple standouts – including a former individual champion -- who helped fuel the Quakers’ run to back-to-back Section VI girls bowling championships.
The competition knows better than to sleep on the Quakers heading into the Section VI Bowling Championships on Wednesday and Thursday. That’s because OP caught folks’ attention by winning the Section VI Invitational on Feb. 3. That’s the lead up tournament to sectionals at Airport Lanes that features all the contenders.
There’s no telling how things will shake out during the grueling six-game session that is the Section VI Tournament, but any chance the Quakers had at being a potential sleeper disappeared when they finished 281 pins ahead of runner-up Tonawanda and more than 300 pins ahead of third-place Lancaster at the Invitational.
“I think everyone thought because they graduated a couple of studs they’d be down,” said Dan Kaplan, Section VI girls basketball chairman. “I wouldn’t count them out. … They’re still one of the teams to beat.”
So too is Lancaster, along with perennial contender Niagara Falls, which ran the table in the Niagara Frontier League.
The Section VI Tournament begins with the boys portion of the event at 9 a.m. Wednesday. The girls take center stage at the same time Thursday. The snow day in the event of a weather postponement is Friday.
The Orchard Park boys and girls teams head into the large school event as defending sectional champions. Tonawanda boys and Dunkirk girls are the reigning Section VI small schools champions. The champions along with qualifiers for the all-Section VI team advance to the state tournament at AMF Strike N Spare in Syracuse.
OP graduated former individual sectional champion Paige Bartosz and Sara Radt but returned starters Emily Brock, Alexis Klenke and Olivia Dauer.
Lancaster went unbeaten during the regular season and is led by Mattingly Selk’s 200.63. Niagara Falls’ top bowler is Mckenzie Gilmore (193.98).
For small school girls, Dunkirk has pretty much everyone back from last year’s state-title winning team, including Rachel Glowniak (191.57).
Nathan Ostrander and Declan Stiles are OP’s top bowlers on the boys side and returnees. Quakers coach Joe Biondo considers his team one of the sleepers.
He agreed West Seneca West looks formidable heading into the home stretch, as the Indians finished second at the Section VI Invite led by Connor Nowak (216 season average).
Brian Templeton of Niagara Falls has the top average in Western New York (221.61), which means the Wolverines shouldn’t be counted out. Clarence won its division and is considered a favorite for the large title.
Tonawanda’s Brian Stone has a 220 average, second in the section. Teammate Jon Kurdziel is also back and the defending overall champion, having posted a winning total of 1,504, more than 100 pins ahead of the tournament runner-up.
Other small schools contenders include Hinsdale and Maryvale.