By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Two bowling teams from Tupelo High School won state championships on Friday at Rebelanes, but for coach Susan Dudley, it felt like one king-sized victory.
“I have a hard time thinking of this as two teams,” Dudley said. “We practice together and work together and it feels more like one big group.”
The Tupelo boys won their fourth consecutive Class II championship by beating Pontotoc 3-1 in the Baker-style final. The Lady Wave dethroned two-time champion Itawamba AHS 3-1 for their first state title.
The Tupelo teams easily dominated the four rounds of qualifying but each had to rally after losing the first game of the Baker-style finals, in which all five bowlers roll two frames.
Dudley “was scared to death” after the teams fell behind, she said, but was pleased with the way both squads responded.
“They did not let each other get down in the mouth … they stuck with it,” she said.
The Tupelo girls held a 3,416-3,074 edge on Itawamba in the qualifying. Clinton (2,940) was third; Pontotoc (2,507) was seventh.
Tupelo’s Taylor Russell had the high game (231) and second-high series (809) in qualifying.
The Itawamba girls won the first game of the finals 159-156, but the Lady Wave roared back, getting stronger in each of their three successive games – 156-136, 172-159 and 180-148.
“It was very disappointing last year when we finished second,” Tupelo freshman Morgan Pannell said. “When we fell behind today, we just pulled together to win it.”
So did the Tupelo boys, who rallied to win their title in time to gather and cheer on their female counterparts in their final game.
Pontotoc won the first boys game 188-181, as the Warriors left only one open frame. Then the Wave caught fire, throwing a total of 16 strikes in the next three games with just five open frames.
Tupelo’s winning scores were 213-186, 189-163 and 201-145. In the Wave’s second game, they closed with five consecutive strikes to swing the momentum their way.
Pontotoc’s Trip Walton, one of five seniors on his squad, had the day’s high series (931) and second-highest game (256). The next-highest series were delivered by Tupelo’s Hartigan brothers, junior Tim (889) and seventh grader Lucas (812).
“As much fun as it was to win a state championship with my brother, I feel like this whole team is family,” said Tim Hartigan. Bowling in the fifth and 10th frames, he dealt eight strikes and also had five spares.
His younger brother Lucas – he bowls left-handed, while Tim is a righty – set him up with six strikes bowling in the fourth and ninth frames.
In the qualifying, Tupelo compiled a 4,028-3,859 edge in pins over Pontotoc. Petal (3,667) was third.