Lockport’s run to the IHSA boys state bowling championship last winter stole the headlines.
What happened to Minooka was relegated to the back burner. The Indians led the tournament through three rounds before faltering on the final day to finish in fourth, one pin from the trophy that would have come with a top-three finish.
With several veterans from the last year’s state team leading the way, the time is right for Minooka to make amends. In the first season of regional competition – the postseason began previously on the sectional level – the Indians began the process Saturday, winning the regional they hosted at Channahon Lanes with 6,294 pins for the six games.
Bolingbrook challenged for most of the day and finished second at 6,047. Plainfield North (5,721) and Oswego (5,682) also qualified for Saturday’s Andrew Sectional.
Joliet West narrowly missed qualifying, finishing fifth at 5,639. Plainfield Central was next at 5,495.
Romeoville, which won the Southwest Prairie Conference regular-season title while Minooka claimed the SPC tournament championship, won the Sandburg Regional and will battle the Indians again Saturday in the sectional. Sandburg, Andrew and Lockport finished second through fourth at Sandburg to advance.
While Minooka claimed the regional prize, Indians senior John Kauffman missed out on winning the individual title. He shot a 1,366, a 227.7 average, while Bolingbrook’s Matt Rycraft bowled a 1,376, good for a 229.3 average. Both shot 235 in their final game.
“This was one of my better tournaments, for sure,” said Kauffman, who was not bothered in the least by finishing second to Rycraft. “This is definitely a team sport. I helped my team the best I could.
“This was a lot of fun. I was really looking forward to it. Whatever happened during the season doesn’t matter now. We won this as a team.”
Rycraft was coming off a torn left Achilles’ that sidelined him for two months and, for a while, was unsure if he would be able to go in the regional. But he felt strong, and that carried through to 10th frame of the final game.
“I was told I needed two strikes to win and that motivated me,” he said. “I never shot 700 for three games (he had 731 in for the morning series) or nearly 1,400 for six games before. I could not have done it without my teammates.”
Bolingbrook also sported the third-place finisher in senior Eric Kramer (1,295). Dylan Pickett (1,263), who was fifth, was a key for Minooka.
“We knew Minooka would be tough in their home house,” Bolingbrook coach Brian Wayne said. “But it turned out to be a great day for us.
“We started slow. Five frames into the first game, I took the guys off to the side and told them they were putting too much pressure on themselves. After that, they were pretty consistent.”
Indians coach Derrick Rapsky used six bowlers in the other three lineup spots.
“We faltered a little after the winter break and we’re starting to come back now, but we’re not there yet,” Rapsky said. “This is a game of mental toughness.”
Plainfield North finished with strong 1,019 and 1,012 games to secure third place. Zack Berndl shot 1,263 for fourth individually.
“This was a huge step for our program,” Tigers coach Brian Dunn noted. “There were good teams here we had to beat. Plainfield Central can drop a 3,300 on you at any time, and Joliet West has been strong all year. We couldn’t come here and have an average day.”
Ten individuals not on advancing teams also advanced to the sectional. They included Plainfield South’s Alec Eklove, Cory Kopanski and Nick Morris; Joliet West’s Josh Pesavento; Plainfield Central’s Chuck Rife and Mitch Zastresek and Plainfield East’s Zach Kendrick.