By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Itawamba AHS coach Kenny Coker promised his girls bowling team two things if they won a state championship Friday.
He had to pay up.
Coker’s Lady Indians defeated rival East Union 3-2 in a Baker-style final to win their second consecutive MHSAA Class I state championship at Paradise Lanes.
“They’ve never seen me bowl, so I told them I’d roll one ball,” Coker said, then smiled. “I also promised them we’d go out for ice cream.”
A relaxed Coker rolled a strike to the cheers of his team moments after the awards ceremony.
IAHS earned a berth in the finals with a 2,958 score in four rounds of qualifying. East Union rolled a 2,902.
“We wanted to go out with a bang and we definitely did,” said IAHS senior Jessica Tull, who led the team with a 211 high game.
Brittany Francis, the team’s other senior, said bowling against East Union made for an intense Baker matchup. East Union beat IAHS by one pin for the regional championship.
“They’re really good bowlers,” she said. “They just had a bad last (Baker) game.”
In the Class I boys Baker finals, East Webster beat East Union 3-2.
“It doesn’t get much closer than that,” East Union coach Brian Browning said of the two losses. “We had a great attitude and gave it our best shot.”
Tupelo’s girls won their third straight Class II state title with a 3-0 win against Clinton at Fannin Lanes.
Ninth grader Taylor Russell rolled a team-best 237 in the qualifying while the Wave’s lone senior, Madison Stafford, posted a 201.
Tupelo dropped 3,374 pins in the qualifying while Clinton had 2,826.
“I was confident we had a great chance to win,” Tupelo coach Susan Dudley said. “We’ve got more depth on this team than any we’ve had.”
Still, she added, “It doesn’t get any easier.”
Hancock defeated Olive Branch 3-2 to win the boys championship. Tupelo, which finished fourth in qualifying, had won the six previous championships.
First-year program Tupelo Christian Prep knocked down 3,135 pins in four games and finished sixth overall in the eight-team boys field in Class I.
Freshman Lucas Hartigan rolled a 753 series and a 235 high game.