Spain Park had to overcome a familiar foe to claim their third men’s bowling championship.
The Jaguars squared off with crosstown rival Hoover in the Finals and won a thrilling game to claim the Class 6A/7A title at the 2022 Alabama High School Athletic Association State Bowling Championships on Jan. 28 at Alley Bowling. Center in Gadsden.
“As we like to say at Spain Park, it’s always a good day to beat Hoover,” said Spain Park coach Stephen Hobbs.
This has not been easy. The Bucs came close to perfection in Game 3 of the game, with its five bowlers knocking down 10 straight strikes en route to a 2-1 lead in the Finals.
Hoover bowlers AJ Nelson, Connor Davis, Rhett Pearson, Carter Hughes and Alex Lee combined for two strikes apiece. But the bid for AHSAA’s first perfect 300 game as a team fell through when the Bucs, coached by Dustin Edgar, left two pins standing on the 11th pitch to finish with a record 288-203 win.
The Jags weren’t impressed with the Bucs’ historic game. Spain Park’s strong lineup of Russell Partin, Lucas Mitchell, Cole Henson, Ethan Lee and Michael Kimble responded with nine strikes to win the following game 279-188 to tie the game at 2-2. The Jags won the championship winning Game 5 246-191 and Game 6 201-143 for a 4-2 victory in Baker’s best-of-seven final series.
It was the Jags’ third state title overall, but the first since winning back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017, the first two years AHSAA offered bowling as a championship sport.
“I’m really excited because our other two state championships came at the start of bowling as a championship sport, and the competition has improved a lot since then,” Hobbs said. “To win now, you have to put everything together.
“There was a lot of pressure because we were going against Hoover. Their coach is one of my former students at Spain Park. He did a good job.
Hoover finished second for the second straight season.
Eulogy of novices to the state
Hobbs praised his bowlers as the tournament was a new experience for them.
“None of these guys had ever been in the state before, so for them to come out and play like they did, I couldn’t be prouder,” he said. “Our two eldest, Cole Henson and Russell Partin only started bowling last year. They did a great job guiding us.
“Cole was in the JV (junior college) until the end of last year, but he fell in love with the sport and really dedicated himself to it. Russell is our leader. He kicks us off with a shot at almost every game.
Henson was the top medalist with an all-around score of 683, 20 pins better than Lee de Hoover. The Bucs’ Hughes finished fourth with a total of 621 in three games.
Hobbs praised volunteer assistant Lillian Singleton for her efforts in helping the Jags win the crown.
“I have to give Lillian a lot of credit,” Hobbs said. “She’s in every practice and game, teaching the kids technique. Without her, we wouldn’t be state champions.
In the Women’s Class 6A/7A competition, Vestavia Hills and Spain Park were eliminated by Stanhope Elmore, with the Rebels falling in the quarter-finals and the Jags in the semi-finals.
Stanhope Elmore lost to Sparkman 4-0 in the final as the Lady Senators won their second straight Class 6A/7A title.
Spain Park’s Emma Hawkins placed third among women’s 6A/7A individual medalists with a total of 561 in three games, breaking a program record with her 244 in game two.