Union county schools sweep Class I titles

n East Union boys, West Union girls roll to MHSAA championships.

BY JAY TIDWELL

Special to the Journal

TUPELO – If you had asked Brian Browning how the bowling season was going for his East Union boys’ team a few weeks ago, he’d have struggled to find something positive to say.

Even though the Urchins took last year’s MHSAA 2A state title, only two starters returned this season, and the first several matches were anything but pleasing.

After Browning’s squad captured the newly formatted Class I state title in Saturday afternoon’s competition at Tupelo’s Rebelanes, it was easy for him to talk about what makes this team special.

“I’ve just been hoping and praying that we would just have a chance to do our best,” Browning said. “I’m tremendously pleased with this group of kids.”

The Urchins led a field of six teams from classes 1A, 2A and 3A in the preliminary round, and held off cross-county rival West Union – in its first year of varsity bowling – to win the championship round, 4-2. East Union lost both of its regular season matches against West Union, but seemed undeterred against the Eagles in the finals.

“Nothing seems to faze them,” Browning said. “They have been through adversity. We started the season at 0-8, and at times couldn’t even bowl our weight. And these kids never gave up, never hung their heads.

“I’ve been telling them, It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.’ And that’s what they showed me.”

East Union took the first two rounds of the Baker-style title match, 182-170 and 162-103. West Union won the third round by two pins (138-136), boosted by strong rolling by Bobby De Maxey, and tied the best-of-seven series in the fourth (186-137).

Back-to-back strikes by juniors Buddy Easterling and Daniel Hardy and senior Dusty Prather in the final rolls of the fifth round helped the Urchins regain the lead, and they wrapped up the championship with a 188-174 score in the sixth.

“It was a friendly competition,” Prather said. “I told them before the game that if we win, we win, and if we lose, we lose, and they’re a good team.”

In the preliminaries, Maxey closed the fourth game with four straight strikes to help West Union (3,105) leap-frog over Cleveland (3,097) and Clarkdale (3,064), to meet East Union (3,115) in the finals. Maxey led the Eagles with 678 points, followed by fellow senior Dustin Strickland (677) and eighth-grader Dalton Baggett (645).

Alex Scrimpshire coaches both the boys and girls squad for West Union, and wasn’t disappointed with the results, especially with the Lady Eagles taking the Class I girls’ title with a 4-1 win against St. Andrews.

“I’m ecstatic,” Scrimpshire said. “If somebody had told me at the first of the year, Hey, you’re gonna win the state championship in girls bowling,’ I would have said, We don’t even have a bowling team. I’m the golf coach.'”

Jenna Nolley, a sophomore, led West Union in the preliminary round with 532, followed by Jessica Joyner (521), and Ashley Alexander and senior Jenna Berryhill with 504 apiece.

St. Andrews was led by Mary Helen Ford, who rolled a tournament-high 599.

“The girls bowled better than I’d expected, but it was kind of a disappointing end there in the Baker-style,” said St. Andrews coach Aaron Johnson. “We had practiced the Baker-style and knew it was coming. We just didn’t get a lot of lucky breaks there at the end.”

n Scores, Page 2B