Bearcats Bowl Their Way to State
On a Roll: W.F. West Takes Second at District Tournament in Program’s Second Year
By Jordan Nailon / firstname.lastname@example.org
LONGVIEW — The Bearcat bowling team is headed to state after placing second at the District 4 tournament here at Triangle Bowl on Friday afternoon.
W.F. West finished behind Mark Morris and ahead of Black Hills in the final standings but all of the teams qualified for the state tournament thanks to a newly allotted third berth to state for the district this season. In three games the Bearcats finished with 3,517 scratch pins as a team while the Monarchs knocked down 3,841 pins and the Wolves toppled 2,507 pins.
Columbia River, R.A. Long, Montesano, Aberdeen, Ridgefield, Tumwater, and Rochester all competed in the tournament as well but did not qualify their teams for state. Several individual bowlers from those schools, however, did qualify.
As for the Bearcats, Ellie Bunker and Leslie Erwin led the way with 525 pins and 512 pins, respectively. Jessica Loflin added 487 pins for W.F. West, while Kelsey Strimatter knocked down 471 pins, Brianna Powe added 241 pins and Anahbelle Lopez collected 146 pins in the tournament.
Brooklyn Boudreau led all bowlers with 742 pins on the day and Hailee Reynolds knocked down 580 pins for Mark Morris to help the Monarchs with the district title.
W.F. West finished second to Black Hills during regular season play in the 2A Evergreen Conference. The Bearcats, who only added bowling as a varsity sport in the 2017-18 season, finished runner up to a Mark Morris team that captured a state title last year. Needless to say, Bearcats’ coach Donnie Bunker is pleased, but not complacent, when it comes to the trajectory of the program.
“I think our goal all year was we wanted to win the league championship and we came close to that but our ultimate goal was to make it to the state tournament and we’ve made it,” Bunker said. “That was our team goal and now we’re going to try to score as high as we can in that state tournament.”
Ellie Bunker, who placed at state last season, helped to keep the team moving in the right direction all year long. Even after a full slate of regular season games the junior bowler said that the playoff atmosphere in a packed alley takes some getting used to.
“It’s super, super loud surprisingly with all the pins and teams cheering,” said Bunker.
Luckily, the Bearcats had taken extra measures to get used to the particular oil splatters and spin proclivities of Cowlitz County’s finest bowling lanes.
“We came down here last week for a tournament and we actually really struggled. The lanes are a lot different than they are at home,” Bunker, the coach, said. “So we scheduled a practice during the middle of the week and kind of get used to the lanes. That really helped us to learn the shot here and the girls came in with a lot more confidence.”
After topping their league nemesis for the second spot to state Ellie Bunker was thrilled to know that her teammates will get to compete in an event that she had to attend as an individual last season. In 2018 Bunker finished 15th in the state while Ashley Werner, since graduated, finished 11th.
“It’s so awesome. We’re all so happy. It’s super great,” Bunker said of her fellow state bound Bearcats. “Brianna Powe had a little rough start but she definitely came through in the bakers (game) which was awesome. The whole team, everyone did great.”
As the only returning Bearcast with state experience, Bunker offered the following advice.
“Just bowl good. Just bowl your averages,” she said.
The Bearcats coach second that notion while refraining from putting a cap on how high his team might place next week.
“Bowling is a lot like golf. You’re competing against yourself. We worry about us and what we score and if we take care of our averages and our spares then we know we are going to be successful,” said Donnie Bunker. “We really it just comes down to how hot we get. I mean, if we get hot like we did today, we beat some good teams today. … I’m just really proud of our girls. They’ve really worked hard.”
Bunker also expressed gratitude to the operators of their home alley at Fairway Lanes in Centralia and insisted his team wouldn’t have been able to pick up momentum on the lanes so quickly without community support.
“It really feels like home there,” Bunker said. “We’re trying to earn the respect of the other sports in our school and they’re seeing that it’s the real deal. When you come down here and you see the electricity and the excitement of the district tournament and the state tournament is off the charts. Hopefully we can get as many fans up there as we can for that tournament.”
In the program’s very first district tournament appearance Rochester finished with 2519 pins as a team but failed to qualify any bowlers for state. Amerika Jones and Sarah Soderback led the way for the Warriors with 394 pins each. Thalia Phothisat added 359 pins for Rochester while Emily Holmes-Pickernell knocked down 313 pins, and Luz Martinez scored 303 pins,
W.F. West bowl at the state tournament next Friday and Saturday at Narrows Plaza in Tacoma. Competition will run from 11:30 a.m. until 6:45 p.m. on Friday.
District IV Bowling Tournament
BEARCATS (3841) — Ellie Bunker (525), Leslie Erwin (512), Jessica Loflin (487), Kelsey Stritmatter (471), Brianna Powe (241), Anahbelle Lopez (146), Kayleigh Leech
WARRIORS (2519) — Amerika Jones (394), Sarah Soderback (394), Thalia Phothisat (359), Emily Holmes-Pickernell (313), Luz Martinez (303)