Jennifer Grelle watched with no angst.
The head coach of the Gloucester girls bowling team, who is in her 15th season, witnessed her squad trailing by 40 pins after the first game Saturday at the NJSIAA South Jersey, Group 1 sectional tournament at Laurel Lanes in Maple Shade.
After the second game, the deficit dipped to just 23.
After the third and final game, there was none.
“They came together as a team and pulled through,” said Grelle after the Lions overtook Maple Shade, 2,101 to 2,096, to win the program’s second South Jersey, Group 1 title.
“They rallied. They knew that they had to come together as a team. It was not a surprise. They have been doing it all year. We finished our division undefeated. They have been coming up big all year. They definitely had the ability.”
Bishop Eustace placed third with a score of 1,900. Medford Tech (1,877) and Lindenwold (1,784) rounded out the top five in Group 1. The top two teams from each group advanced to the state Tournament of Champions, set for Wednesday at Bowlero Lanes in North Brunswick.
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“I was confident in our team, because all year, we have battled back,” freshman Abby Binck said. “Even when we were down, we always picked each other up. I think that helped us a lot today. We were very positive with ourselves. We got down, because we didn’t make all of our spares, but after we realized that we can do it, we got ourselves back together. I also think we were a little nervous that first game.”
The Lions trailed the Wildcats, 698 to 658, after the first game. Gloucester made it a 1,416 to 1,393 contest after the second game.
“I was a little worried entering the third game, but I knew that we were going to come back,” junior Sarah Bonney said. “We were prepared for this. We worked really hard for it; we practiced for it. I am confident in the way I have been bowling, because I have been doing better. I have been practicing a lot too. Coming into the season, I knew that we would make it close (in winning a sectional title), because we have good group of girls.”
Binck anchored the lineup with the highest series of 476. Bonney added a 458. Senior Alyssa Breckow bowled a 445. Sophomore Danaka Bennett (396) and junior Shannon Johnson (326) added to the championship run.
“I just tried to focus,” Binck said. “I was just trying to make sure that with each shot, I gave it my everything. Picking each other up as a team really helped me as well. I am glad that we stayed together.”
In Group 2, Lacey led wire-to-wire to win with a score of 2,481. Deptford rallied from third after the first game and overtook Barnegat (2,252 to 2,179) for second place and a ticket to the state tournament. Seneca (2,052) and West Deptford (1,917) comprised the top five. Junior Alexis Marlar was the Spartans’ top bowler with a 481.
In Group 3, Toms River South led from the jump and finished with a score of 2,645. Central Regional (2,551) advanced with a second-place finish. GCIT (2,435), Atlantic Tech (2,345) and Hammonton (1,935) rounded out the top five.
“Hey, we are going to states; we will take the wildcard,” said Gloucester Tech head coach John Holland whose team earned an at-large bid. “I think they bowled very well. In the second game, we struggled a little bit. That might have hurt us in getting second place, but today I think they actually bowled very well. I don’t know if it was the moving of lanes; they couldn’t adjust to it. When we moved back to (lane) 19 for the third game, they bowled a lot better.”
GCIT sat in second place after the first game but dropped to third after the second game. Sophomore Megan Prettyman paced the Cheetahs with a 623. It was the second-highest series of the day. Sophomore Gianna McGahan bowled a 564. Junior Kasey DeLorenzo, who won a bowl-off vs. Lacey’s Juliana Rettino to earned the 20th and final berth to the state tournament, rolled a 499. Senior Izzy Roman (382), sophomore Bayleigh Calhoun (218) and junior Rebecca Long (140) also contributed.
“I think going to states as a wildcard is still pretty good to us, because we have never gone,” Prettyman said. “So I think we are OK with it as long as we get to go. In the third game, I think we picked the energy up. We really tried to pick each other up. I really have no idea what will happen next week (at the state tournament). It is uncharted territory for us.”
Grace Foster of Atlantic Tech bowled the highest game with a 258 score. Cumberland’s Carolece Henry, who had the second-highest game of 256, took home the award for the highest series, edging teammate Totiana Miranda and Prettyman, 636 to 623.
“It was just regular bowling to me,” said Henry, a sophomore, who was on the far outside lanes competing with Miranda since the Colts do not have a complete team. “I have to treat it like a regular game, so that it doesn’t freak you out or anything. My average this season is a 190. I have gotten better throughout the season. My average has gone up. Next week at states, I will just do my best and not let anyone freak me out or scare me.”
TEAMS (Top two in each group qualify for state tournament)
Group 4: 1-Eastern 2,344. 2-Southern Reg. 2,095. 3-Egg Harbor Township 2,058. 4-Washington Township 1,946. 5-Cherry Hill East 1,687. 6-Lenape 1,668. 7-Cherokee 1,186.
Group 3: 1-Toms River South 2,645. 2-Central Reg. 2,551. *3-GCIT 2,433. 4-Atlantic Tech 2,345, 5-Hammonton 1,935. 6-Kingsway 1,890. 7-Shawnee 1,840. 8-Toms River East 1,738.
Group 2: 1-Lacey 2,481. 2-Deptford 2,252. 3-Barnegat 2,179. 4-Seneca 2,052. 5-West Deptford 1,917. 5-Pinelands 1,879. 7-Camden Tech 1,668. 8-Pennsauken Tech 1,483.
Group 1: 1-Gloucester 2,101. 2-Maple Shade 2,096. 3-Bishop Eustace 1,900. 4-Medford Tech 1,877. 5-Lindenwold 1,784. 5-Salem 1,784. 7-Overbrook 1,761. 8-Collingswood 1,699.
*-Gloucester Tech advanced to states as wild-card selection (high score outside of top two in any group)
INDIVIDUALS (Top 20 qualify for state tournament)
HIGH SERIES: 1-Carolece Henry, Cumberland, 636. 2-Totiana Miranda, Cumberland, 623. 2-Megan Prettyman, GCIT, 623. 4-Aubrey Lloyd, Egg Harbor Township, 619. 5-Ashley Ferrara, Toms River South, 618. 6-Megan Hanaway, Lacey, 603. 7-Allanagh Dambroski, Toms River South, 601. 8-Grace Foster, Atlantic Tech, 583. 9-Madison McFadden, Central Reg., 582. 10-Michaela Ridge, Toms River South, 575. 11-Gianna McGahan, GCIT, 564. 12-Hannah Carrino, Toms River East, 536. 13-Lindsey Hoffman, Eastern, 534. 14-Meghan Bilello, Central Reg., 513. 15-Delaney Insinga, Seneca, 510. 16-Thalia Lozada, Central Reg., 504. 16-Kelly Ferguson, Medford Tech, 504. 18-Charlee Musiakiewiez, Toms River East, 503. 19-Ashlynne Scardino, Hammonton, 651. **20-Kasey DeLorenzo, GCIT, 499. 20-Juliana Rettino, Lacey, 499.
HIGH GAME: 1-Grace Foster, Atlantic Tech, 258. 2-Carolece Henry, Cumberland, 256. 3-Megan Hanaway, Lacey, 247.
**-DeLorenzo defeated Rettino in a bowl-off to earn the final bid to the state tournament.