By Lisa Bay
Special to the Express
The Bartlett High School boy’s bowling team was pumped and ready for their sub state match on Monday January 21st against Munford at Andy B’s Bowling Center in Bartlett. The match was tight in the beginning with Munford leading after the first game despite Bartlett having four bowlers break 200 led by sophomore Ryan Foster’s 267. The Panthers didn’t let up and went on to roll four more 200 plus games in the second game and remained consistent in the third game, finishing with a 3479 to 3196 decision. Bartlett paved their way to sub state by placing second in District 17 to Collierville, and then by beating Collierville in regionals to become the Region 8 champs. The team is led by senior Brandon Gurley who, along with junior Christopher Bay, sophomores Ryan Foster, Nick Kovoian, and Hunter Winters and freshmen Phillip Bay, Christian Smith, Justin Yates, and Landon Brereton, consistently help lead the team to victory.
State Tournament play in Smyrna, TN began Thursday January 24th for the individual qualifiers. For Bartlett’s boys’ team, Sophomore Ryan Foster qualified with a 201.86 average, and for the girls’ team two seniors qualified – Courtney Gable with a 164.5 average and Katie Tindal with a 165.04 average. Both Ryan and Courtney advanced to the top 24 with Ryan finishing 15th, and Courtney 20th.
Team play on Friday, January 25th began for the Panthers against Baxter Upperman. After game one, the Panthers were trailing 6 – 2, and they felt the pressure from the Upperman’s lead scorer Wes Conaster who rolled a perfect 300 in the game. Game 2 ended with Upperman leading the match 9 – 7. The Panthers needed to win 5 of the 6 matches in game 3 and total pins to advance to the Semi-final play on Saturday. When game play ended and after a few minutes of uncertainty by both sides, they had stunned the Upperman team by doing just that with a win of 14 to 13. Coach Winters stated, “The boys and I knew once Christian threw the first ball in the tenth frame that the match was ours.”
In the semi-final game on Saturday, Bartlett faced Walker Valley. The team remained strong, and flew threw the match with a 18 – 9 win led by Ryan Foster who threw a 690 in the series. With the semi-final win, the Panthers became the first Bartlett High boys team and the first Shelby-Metro boys team to ever reach the Division 1 final. Despite a 21 – 6 loss in finals to the two time champions Columbia Central (24 – 0), the Panthers finished their state tournament play with their heads held high. State play averages for the Panthers were again led by Foster who averaged 235 followed by Gurley with a 197, Smith with a 178, Chris Bay with a 175, and Phillip Bay with a 172. The Panthers wanted to leave Smryna with everyone knowing who they were, and they accomplished that without a doubt.
This was only the Panther Boys second trip to the state tournament. The boys contribute much of their success to the leadership of coaches Mrs. Taube and Lenny Winters. Coach Winters added, “We had a great season. To become the first Shelby-Metro team to ever make it to the Division 1 finals is quite an accomplishment. I’m extremely proud of the boys. We had some matches where things weren’t going our way but the boys never gave up and were able to pull out the wins. Not bad for a first year coach and a young team,” he concluded.