Monday, January 18, 2010

1/16/10 Bergen County Girls Tournament @ Bowler City

Today's episode: "History repeating," although that was not necessarily true in all cases during this past weekend's County bowling tournaments. Let's run down the list:

A.) I just looked back and saw that last year it took me a couple days to post on the Bergen County girls tournament, so it must be something about this weekend in January that gums up the works. Fortunately, UNlike last year, I was not slipping on deadly ice and losing sleep working overnights, rather I was on a day-long retreat and watching the Jets continue to signal a potential apocalypse coming (I've tried pinching myself, and I still can't feel it).

B.) Immaculate Heart Academy won its 6th consecutive County title, but similar to last year when the afternoon Baker tournament was introduced, there was one point where the Blue Eagles had to sweat things out a little bit.

C.) As I did on Sunday, July 18, 1999, I felt I was exactly where I needed to be... yet my decision between which one of two sporting events to witness ultimately cost me the chance to see a perfect game (explanation forthcoming).

Now, for some things that did not repeat for whatever reason: no Clifton winning EITHER Passaic County title? I mean, the girls team had won every County championship since I started covering this beat in 2001-02 — in fact, there was one year where I asked how long the streak actually was, and the tournament directors said they believed the Mustangs had won every Passaic girls title ever, a number I had up to approximately 13 straight as of last year. I plan to research this further, but if anyone has more concrete info, e-mail it to Yeah, I know, The Messenger still doesn't have an e-mail address in his name. His real apologies go to those who have sent unanswered messages recently; that is another manner in which we're seeking to change the same-old history around here.

Anyhow... on to explanation time. On 7/18/99, I was back in N.J. on summer break after my sophomore year at Boston College, but I decided to drive up to Fenway Park with my brother because the Marlins were there for interleague play. Now, I'm a Yankee fan, so the meta-explanation is: the first pro athlete I ever interviewed (Dennis Springer) for a work that got published (an essay on the knuckleball in BC's freshman writing journal Fresh Ink) was a member of the Florida pitching staff at the time, so I wanted to see if I could catch up with him before the game, and if he could pitch his way out of the bullpen. The only way I could remember who the Marlins actually started that day was by looking it up on, but I distinctly remember the Red Sox throwing Pedro Martinez, fresh off his "dominant" All-Star Game performance in the very same stadium (yeah, it didn't count for anything, but he did strike out 5 of the 6 All-Stars he faced)... I also remember getting this strange sensation just before first pitch that something special might happen that day. It did — just not at Fenway. Pedro got shelled, but the Bozos... er, BoSox won anyway, 11-9. The punchline/irony of the story is that David Cone threw his perfect game against the Expos at Yankee Stadium on the exact same day. If I hadn't enjoyed spending time with Dennis Springer and my brother, I would have done much more ruing about not going to Yanks-'Spos.

Anyway, it's not quite the same, but last Saturday, I headed down to Bowler City for the Bergen girls tournament, even though most of the teams I was assigned to cover were not considered top contenders. I briefly contemplated stopping by T-Bowl II for the Passaic tournament in the morning, then heading to Hackensack for the afternoon Baker round, which has become the crux of the Bergen girls tourney. Then, for no apparent reason, I said... "nahhh," and went straight to Bowler City. And, then Lakeland's Zach Zuravner bowled a perfect game. And then and then, on top of that, DePaul ended Clifton's dynastic hold on the Passaic girls crown, 2,589 to 2,305. But hey, now IHA has something to shoot for: trumping the Mustangs' 13-year streak. And, to be honest, Passaic County isn't really my beat anymore, plus it was good too see a lot of the teams that I (quasi) get paid to cover.

So, breaking the Bergen girls tourney down as we did last year, here's how the standings looked after the morning session:
1. IHA 2574*, 2. Bergen Tech 2378*, 3. Bergenfield 2293, 4. Hackensack 2281*, 5. Pascack Hills 2262*, 6. (tie) Indian Hills and Ramapo 2225*, 8. Holy Angels 2177*, 9. Northern Highlands 2119, 10. Paramus Catholic 2072, 11. Fair Lawn 1994, 12. Westwood 1963, 13. Ridgefield Park 1962, 14. Fort Lee 1929, 15. Dumont 1870, 16. Cliffside Park 1865, 17. Ridgewood 1800, 18. Mahwah 1703.
*Top 8 teams qualify for Baker round

A few things jump out at me — I mean, aside from the fact that the Blue Eagles had the only two 900+ games on the day... 1.) Wasn't Ridgewood the runner-up in this thing last year? The Maroons have had quite a precipitous drop-off, and a couple of the girls admitted it's taken the team a while to find its identity after the graduation of emotional leaders Kim Burdi and Courtney Visco. But chin up RHS fans, the Jets had been through 11 rebuilding years since their previous AFC title-game appearance. Persistence pays off, apparently, eventually... 2.) Of course, the one tie in the whole tournament was between intra-district rivals Ramapo and Indian Hills. Bowling seems to be the one sport where the Braves typically have a leg-up on the Green Raiders — once upon a time, a close, personal friend of The Messenger even used that premise to write an essay for his IHHS English class — so naturally, Ramapo won the coin toss to be the No. 6 seed. And yet, the Braves still ended up with the last laugh... 3.) Northern Highlands finished 9th for the second year in a row. Last year, they missed advancing by 140 points, this year it was only 58. As Mr. Powers might say, "Ouch, babe. Very ouch." At least the Highlanders got some recognition when senior Alex Hubelbank won the 2nd-high game medal — she also had 4th-high series, but according to BCWCA rules, a bowler cannot receive both high-game and high-series medals... which might lead me to another tangent, except that I overheard some tournament folk mulling the possibility of dropping that rule next year, so let's move on.

Speaking of high series and game, I left that out of last year's Bergen girls recap. Another vote for not repeating history:
High series medals - 1ST, Nicole Linder (IHA), 655; 2nd, Stacy Fernandez (Ridgefield Park), 593; 3rd, Ashley Johnson (North Arlington), 555; 4th, Nicolette Brenner (Cliffside Park), 553; 5th, Colleen Blake (IHA), 542.
High game medals - 1ST, Bridget Pyryt (Indian Hills), 243; 2nd, Alex Hubelbank (NH), 235; 3rd, Yeliz Inalman (Fort Lee), 233; 4th, Taylor Strothmann (IHA), 221; 5th, Nikki Villani (Lyndhurst), 214.
Actual order of finish:
1st Nicole Linder, IHA 258 203 194 655
2nd Stacy Fernandez, RP 244 183 166 593
3rd Bridget Pyryt, Indian Hills 195 146 243 584
4th Alex Hubelbank, NH 162 235 184 581
5th Ashley Johnson, NA 211 173 171 555
6th Nicolette Brenner, CP 205 181 167 553
7th Collen Blake, IHA 183 154 205 542
8th Taylor Strothmann, IHA 170 141 221 532
9th Nikki Villani, Lyndhurst 168 149 214 531
10th Cassidy Fiore, B'field 160 200 170 530
11th Marina Consalvo, PH 147 212 169 528
12th Carly Bonsignore, Ramapo 201 176 146 523
13th Yeliz Inalman, Fort Lee 143 142 233 518
14th Lexus Lopez, Lyndhurst 166 167 180 513
15th Korey Kozaryn, H'sack 190 167 150 507

Ok, down to the nitty-gritty. Heading into the Baker round, spots 3 through 7 were separated by 72 points. The aforementioned Braves of Indian Hills made the biggest move, jumping from 7th to 4th to advance to the head-to-head semifinals. And guess who they edged out by 5 pins? (History repeating alert!) Yup, the same Bergenfield team that they edged by 1 pin at sectionals last year for a spot in the State finals. Final totals in parens:
1. Immaculate Heart 119-144-191-144 (3172)*
2. Bergen Tech 141-158-133-175 (2985)*
3. Hackensack 178-152-162-121 (2894)*
4. Indian Hills 154-189-137-138 (2843)*
5. Bergenfield 151-133-145-116 (2838)
6. Pascack Hills 159-107-141-163 (2832)
7. Ramapo 152-116-154-170 (2817)
8. Holy Angels 155-149-153-158 (2792)

Have to give some props to Holy Angels as well, since they had the second-highest Baker total but were just too far back to catch up.

In the Bergen Tech/Hackensack semifinal, the Comets were clearly the more consistent team on the afternoon, prevailing 172-136, 170-148 over their sort-of crosstown rivals. I say "sort of" because between Bergen Tech and Bergen Academies, they have campuses in Hackensack, Teterboro and Paramus. Although I'm pretty sure the folks at Teterboro Airport don't have a entry in the NJTCC this year.

The biggest intrigue came in the IH/IHA semifinal (I've been waiting to type that since my prediction of an IH/IHA final in last year's Bergen County softball tournament failed. Insert your own "Old MacDonald" joke here). The Blue Eagles rolled in the 1st game, 194-135. The Braves came back strong in the 2nd game, 190-146. It should be noted that the teams switched lanes after each of the first 2 games, so IHA ended up on the "hot" lane for the finale. IH started off with an open frame, and IHA marked through the first 5. But Pyryt and Breana Parian struck back-to-back for the Braves in the 5th and 6th, while the Eagles left an open in the 6th. However, IH ended up chopping a bit too much wood to overcome... with a chop-chop here, and a chop-chop there— (sorry, couldn't resist). Linder struck out in the 10th to seal a 185-138 Game 3 win, but the Braves had nothing to hang their heads about, considering it was their best-ever County finish.

That left us with an all-NJTCC final: Hackensack's Kelsey Sarro, Jaclyn Draney, Stacie Harewood, Rachel Healy and Korey Kozaryn versus IHA's Colleen Blake, Hanna DiFresco, Murphy McVey, Taylor Strothmann and Nicole Linder. For a Blue Eagles team that returned only one starter and one varsity part-timer, inexperience did not show; they took Game 1, 182-97. In Game 2, Blake led off with a strike — she did that in all 5 head-to-head Baker games, an overlooked tone-setter to which The Messenger, at least, will call attention — while Sarro ended up with an 8-split. The Comets picked her up, though, posting a coveted turkey to counteract three straight spare pickups by IHA. Hackensack then left an open in the 6th frame, but that was not the real turning point.

In the 7th, the southpaw DiFresco struck, while Draney wound up saddled with the dreaded 7-10 split. Right there, it just seemed like things were going IHA's way. Draney did the smart thing and got the wood, knocking down the 7, but the Blue Eagles had clean frames basically the rest of the way. Final game score: IHA 214, Hackensack 175.

So there you have it. In response to a recent forum posting, The Messenger's pigeon may move slower than one of Springer's knucklers, but it gets the job done. Said pigeon also has TM considering enlisting another member of the avian family for coverage purposes... it always takes time to type up a good, thorough blog, but what about the N.J. bowling fan just looking for straight results?

As such, this weekend the New Jersey Bowling Blog will be dusting off its long-forgotten Twitter account (which has been SO forgotten that it's still in the name of a former reporter/alter ego). Lord willing, we'll figure out this technology stuff and be able to tweet game-by-game coverage of the Bergen boys tournament. Good thing, too — there's a chance The Messenger may face yet another conflict with his blogging time on Sunday... as in, both recent history and ancient history seem to foreshadow an impending stampede of angry Colts!

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