On we go. The 8th annual FDU Holiday Team Challenge is in the books, and wouldn't you know it — the first tournament we cover after resolving to branch out and observe teams beyond "North Jersey" gives us the first opportunity to do just that. Congratulations to the Howell Rebels, both the boys and girls squads captured titles after going in as the No. 1 seed.
Howell was the only team outside of Bergen, Passaic, Hudson or Essex to enter, begging the infamous one-letter question (Y), which coach David Clampffer answered for the NJBB. HHS grad Lisa Friscioni is now the assistant women's bowling coach at FDU, and Rebels alum Meghan Kelly is currently a sophomore bowler for the Knights, so there's the connection. Hey, The Messenger travels 2 hours from Park to Park (Midland to Seaside) to see his family every other weekend, why can't Howell travel a slightly shorter distance to Elmwood Park once a year to see some old bowling pals? Also, it's pretty worth it when you consider the Rebel girls won for the 3rd straight year.
Anyway, before we post results and all-stars, some of the highlights from the best 2-of-3 Baker game tournament round:
- The second-seeded Bergen Tech boys followed a pattern in the quaterfinals and semifinals — win Game 1, lose Game 2, start off Game 3 with 7 consecutive strikes and leave no doubt. They Baked up a 268 in the quarters, then took their semifinal elimination game from Paramus Catholic, 257-215. As one observer pointed out, how often do you shoot a Baker 215 and lose by over 40? If it's any consolation, props to the Paladins, they threw some great balls. Game 2 of BT/PC was intense: tied at 186 after 9, both teams working off a spare; Paladin anchor gutters his 1st ball, Tech anchor rolls a 9, but then he gutters, and PC anchor finishes spare-strike to give his team a 2-point win. (P.S. The Messenger is obligated to withhold the name of gutter-ballers to protect the innocent - unless it's that WGHT fellow Gutterball Greg. Ahem.)
- Not to be outdone, the Howell boys held off Fair Lawn in the semifinals, 2-1, with a 278 in the clincher: two strikes, 9-spare, eight more strikes, and one pin left standing all game on the final roll. Lefty note: Rebels southpaws D.J. Jacob and Arianna Mattera each converted a 2-7 split in the tournament. Clearly, Howell had that team harmony thing going.
- Immaculate Heart graduated 4/5ths of its tournament lineup, but you wouldn't have been able to tell by watching the girls bowl. The Blue Eagles earned the No. 2 seed, reached the finals, fell behind 1-0 before trailing by almost 30 pins midway through Game 2, and still fought back to push Howell to the limit. IHA coach Lynn Gansley used the words "completely thrilled" and "delirious," and after an effort like that, why not? The turning point: In the 7th frame of Game 3, both Howell and IHA bowlers had a 1-2-8 spare (hm, lot of eerie symmetry with this Rebels bunch) — Howell converted, IHA didn't. And yet, in the 10th, Blue Eagles anchor Nicole Linder struck out to keep the pressure on, but Rebels anchor Jess Henri clinched the win with a 9-spare-8. Good stuff.
Overall, just what The Messenger needed to get him out of football mode and into bowling mode. Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for the Heisman Trophy presentation! (Sorry, football never officially ends for me until the Jets are dead and buried. Blame Rex Ryan, I have no idea how that team is still in it.)
8TH ANNUAL FDU HOLIDAY CHALLENGE (Parkway Lanes, Elmwood Park)
BOYS DIVISION PLAYOFFS
1) Howell def. 8) Bergen Catholic, 2-1 (180-238, 198-179, 235-184)
5) Fair Lawn def. 4) North Bergen, 2-0 (194-157, 225-158)
2) Bergen Tech def. 7) Union City, 2-1 (209-190, 134-196, 268-187)
3) Paramus Catholic def. 6) Hackensack, 2-1 (193-170, 183-205, 205-194)
1) Howell def. 5) Fair Lawn, 2-1 (212-183, 192-200, 278-193)
2) Bergen Tech def. 3) Paramus Catholic, 2-1 (198-191, 204-206, 257-215)
1) Howell def. 2) Bergen Tech, 2-0 (203-189, 256-200)
GIRLS DIVISION PLAYOFFS
5) Clifton def. 4) Bergen Tech, 2-1 (107-127, 158-132, 171-121)
6) Fair Lawn def. 3) Hackensack, 2-1 (132-101, 127-134, 191-132)
1) Howell def. 5) Clifton, 2-1 (167-187, 131-200, 181-112)
2) IHA def. 6) Fair Lawn, 2-0 (176-163, 153-126)
1) Howell def. 2) IHA, 2-1 (202-136, 164-186, 177-170)
ALL-STAR TEAMS (Top series of qualifying round)
BOYS: 1. Alex Prell, Wood-Ridge, 707; 2. Eric Negron, North Bergen, 687; 3. Andrew Suscreba, Queen of Peace, 681; 4. Brian Galbraith, Pascack Hills, 675; 5. Chris Auld, Fair Lawn, 673.
GIRLS: 1. Crystal Keller, Lenape Valley, 593; 2. Nicole Linder, IHA, 592; 3. Jess Henri, Howell, 591; 4. Ariana Mattera, Howell, 564; 5. Sonja Shirak, Clifton, 556.