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Most sophomores would have been thrilled to qualify for the New York State Bowling Championships as a member of the All-Section team. Chad Mee of Frontier took that a step further.

Mee led last year’s All-Section team to the state title and along the way finished with the highest six-game total of any bowler in the tournament at 1,344. He’s on a mission as a junior, and takes the first step toward earning his fourth career trip to states at Friday’s Section VI Championships at Thruway Lanes. Mee won the Section title in eighth grade.

Mee would love to go to states this year with his Frontier team, but if that doesn’t happen, he’s hoping to qualify as an individual with teammate Matt Kinn.

“I’m feeling really good about how I’m throwing it,” said Mee. “Usually I don’t practice a lot during the season, but I’ve been practicing more this year and have been really trying to perfect everything.”

Mee was the runaway leader this season for highest average among the 25 teams in the ECIC. His 232.2 was 10 pins better than his closest competitor. Mee’s 797 series against Orchard Park was tops this season among South Large schools. Kinn was second with a 792, rolled the same night as Mee’s 797.

The Falcons have looked good all season as 10 of 12 bowlers have qualified for sectionals and nine average at least 190. The deep lineup includes Jacob John-Sargent, Bryan Carson, and Brandon Gates, and left-handers Nick Brooks and Vinny Waleszczak have had big years.

Frontier won its league at 10-0. Other ECIC champs were Sweet Home at 9-1 in North Large, Tonawanda at 12-0 in North Small and Lackawanna at 8-2 in South Small.

Captain Chris Stonish of Sweet Home led his league with a school-record 782 high series, breaking the previous mark of 757. He also had the league’s high game at 290. Senior Cody Johnson has led the Panthers in average the last four years, and holds the all-time record for high average at 216.5. Aaron Broardt of Williamsville South led North Large in average at 216.13.

Cheektowaga’s Kurt Thurnherr doubled in North Small taking high series (752) and high game (297) while teammate Connor LaJoy had high average at 222.03. Tonawanda’s North Small title was led by Kyle Zack and Josh Large.

There were two 300s this year, both in South Small courtesy of Nate Tackenstien of Pioneer and Dan Streer of Iroquois. Streer’s was the first in Iroquois history. League runner-up Eden was carried by Andrew Herbert, who led in average (212.52) and series (750). Herbert and Mee are the only two bowlers back from last year’s All-Section team.

The ECIC Rolloffs are today at Thruway starting at 3:30 p.m. Recognized for making the All-ECIC Team at the event will be: Mee (Frontier), LaJoy (Cheektowaga), Broardt (W. South), Johnson (Sweet Home) and Dominic D’Angelo (Clarence).

Niagara-Wheatfield (12-2) has either won or shared the Niagara Frontier League title the last three years.

Last year they won the Section VI title and placed seventh at states. Returning from that team is senior Colten Kitcho, senior Anthony Mangione and Nate Maloney, just an eighth-grader.

Kitcho bowled a 300 in a nonleague match this season and was the NFL individual champion. He finished third in the league average-wise with a 217 behind Tyler Roskwitalski of Lew-Port (227.39) and Maloney (223.51). Kitcho’s younger brother, Collin, is quick to note he rolled a 300 game before his brother.

High game in the league this year was separated by one pin as Alex Behr of North Tonawanda had a 289 followed by Sam Colao of Grand Island at 288.

Falcons coach John Boutet said his team saw the oil pattern they’ll be using at sectionals, USBC white, at the Roy Sommer and said it presents medium difficulty. Last year it was the challenging Sport shot.

“My kids are confident on it, we’re going to practice on it all week,” he said. “Those kids that won sectionals last year, are the same group. They are battle-tested, hopefully can use that experience and build on it.”

Boutet said defending their Section VI Class A title will be a challenge, although they weren’t favored last year and won it. Other defending champions are Lew-Port (Class B), Eden (Class C) and Forestville (Class D).

“I keep telling the kids it’s not going to be easy,” he said. “I’d be lying if I thought we were going to collapse. I think we’re to be one of the three-four teams.”

Niagara Falls senior David Griffin bowled a 799 in the last league match of the year to finish with the league’s high series. He had never broken 700 before.

St. Joe’s won the Roy Sommer and the All-Catholic Championship. Kevin Bienko was named to the all-tournament team at the Sommer after rolling a 698 series.

Girls

Niagara Falls, the defending New York State champions, began its quest for a repeat winning the closely-contested Festival of Lights Tournament and the Niagara Frontier League title. They will be among the favorites on Thursday to win the Sectionals.

The lineup from a year ago is pretty much intact with junior Staci Biondi, freshman Angela Gabriele, junior Justine Lansberry, junior Kaylee Narkiewicz and junior Hailey Johnson, niece of Liz Johnson.

Johnson was a double gold medalist a year ago. Not only did she strike gold with a team title, she had the highest six-game total of any bowler in the tournament at 1,244.

“We’re in a very similar position from last year,” said coach Ed Ventry. “We won last year, we only lost one starter, and all the other girls improved. I would say we’re a favorite [to win sectionals], but there are so many good girls teams. There are four, five teams who have been strong all year who can win it.”

Ventry cited teams in his own league, which was very balanced: Lockport, Niagara-Wheatfield and North Tonawanda as well as Maryvale from the ECIC.

It was a record-breaking season for senior Bridget Masiello of Lockport. She broke the NFL record for highest average with a 222. She didn’t break it by much as the previous record was 221 held by Brianna Larson of North Tonawanda.

Ironically, her current coach, Marion Singleton, held the record at 220 before she graduated in 2006. “I’m so happy it’s back in Lockport. It’s so funny how that happened. That’s incredible,” said Singleton. “Bridget is a cranker. She likes to hook the ball into the pocket. She’s done a lot of work to become more versatile. She’s been working to make her game more compatible to every house she bowls in.”

Masiello also led the NFL with a 289 high game. She is considering bowling in the fall at NCCC.

Freshman left-hander Angela Gabriele of the Falls finished with a 202.29 average, third highest in the league and 10 pins better than last year when she bowled the third highest series overall at states.Lockport and North Tonawanda tied for second place in the NFL with 11-3 records.

While Niagara Falls (Class A), Williamsville South (Class B), Tonawanda (Class C) and Silver Creek (Class D) won Section VI team titles, Ashley Fries was the individual champion. This year the Kenmore West senior had the high series in the NFL with a 737 and her 206.40 average was second to Masiello. Brooke Miller of Frontier (750), Hannon (731) and Michaela Morath of Tonawanda (700) were the only ECIC bowlers to hit 700 this year.

Fries leads a foursome of bowlers back from the All-Sectional team: Haley Carroll of Williamsville South, Leah Wacienga of West Seneca East and Melanie Hannon of Maryvale.

Carroll, who averaged 188.36 last year, led ECIC North Large this year with a 201.4. She also led her league in high game (269) and high series (664).

Like Carroll, Frontier’s Miller swept South Large with high game (268), high series (750) and average (204.44).

Sweet Home went undefeated to win the North Large division with a 10-0 record.

Other ECIC champions were Orchard Park (9-1) South Large, Maryvale (11-1) North Small and Springville (9-1) South Small. Tonawanda (8-4) was the only team to beat Maryvale this year in ECIC III.

Maggie Hirsch of Eden had the South Small’s high game (244) and high average (174.51) while Haley Ward of Pioneer had the high series at 616.

In the Buffalo Public Schools, Hutch-Tech (Division I) and City Honors (Division II) claimed boys titles while Buffalo Arts (Division I) and daVinci (Division II) were the girls winners.

email: mmonnin@buffnews.com