By Mark Jurgena
When we last saw the Collinsville boys bowling team in March, they were competing in the de facto Southern Illinois “state” tournament, the COVID-inspired Southern Shootout. After sitting in 4th place after day one, they did not shoot well on day two and fell to a 7th place finish.
Gone from that squad are three of their top four scorers.
To add to that, Collinsville only has two seniors this season, Cole Benson and Evan Flowers.
Benson has been with the squad for all four seasons.
“The kid has a heart of gold,” said coach Sean Hay. “He is pretty much our captain. I don’t generally call out captains but this year I’m calling it for him just because of the way he approaches the game, you’re never going to find a kid that works harder than him. He’s an inspiration for us.”
Flowers has returned to bowling after spending three seasons with the Kahok football team. He was a bowler in the Collinsville Middle School program.
“Ideally we would’ve loved to have had him all four years,” said Hay. “He was a varsity player in middle school and did pretty well. When he came out for bowling you never know what you’re going to get so far as revisiting the past, but his ball rolls as good as anybody in the conference. He just needs a little of that experience which our tournament series and matches will give him. He’s been a real pleasant surprise.”
Brandon Campbell is the top returning scorer from last season. The junior has spent the abbreviated offseason bowling in Jr. PBA tournaments and even won one of the events he entered.
“He’s been bowling excellent,” said Hay. “As a freshman, he got peppered in and out of varsity. Last year he was pretty much a main player. He’s taken a lot of those insecurities that you have as a sophomore and he’s gotten rid of them. He’s gotten past that point and he’s at his actual potential level. He’s not going into a tournament hoping to do well, he’s going into a tournament knowing he’s going to do well. There’s a big difference in that thought process.”
Mason Foley returns for his junior season after a year of gathering varsity experience as a sophomore.
“He’s throwing the ball excellent and I can’t see him not doing great.”
Cole Buckman is yet another junior vying for varsity time.
“Cole has been absolutely killing it,” said Hay. “He’s been bowling fantastic. He does a lot of stuff around St. Clair with travel leagues and stuff like that. I don’t always have eyes on him in the offseason but I’ve been watching him shoot scores where his lower games are higher and his higher games are much higher.”
Hay also mentioned junior Connor Hartman as a possible scorer for the team this season.
“(He) has absolutely turned a corner,” said Hay. “He did it right at the end of last year after the season was over. He went and bowled some individual tournaments and figured some stuff out.”
Finally, Ben Sloan rounds out the juniors competing for a spot.
“Every year he comes back a little better,” said Hay. “His strike potential is off the charts. He just has a ball that wants to carry all the time. That’s just how he throws. It looks like he’s getting control of his spare game a lot more.”
Herrin Invitational Results
In the season opener at Herrin Bowl in Energy on November 6th, Collinsville began slowly but steadily moved up the charts to finish in 6th place out of 16 in the team standings.
“We were in 10th place after the first game then we just moved up from there,” said Hay. “We bowled better each game too. The scores did get better each game but it was more how we were approaching the shot.
“I knew this place going into it that it starts off really oily then it turns really dry. I told the kids that you’re going to be playing spots on the lanes that you’ve never played before. Don’t make a big deal about it, don’t worry about it, don’t be afraid to take a shot. Just get used to the fact that we can’t always be where we want to be. They all did it.”
For Collinsville, Campbell placed 4th overall with an average of 202.
“I expected him to do well and he did,” said Hay. “The top four were the only ones to average 200. The talent level there was definitely for more 200s but the shot wasn’t going to let that happen.”
Foley also began slow but the second half of the day shot a high 500 series.
“Last year he struggled as sophomores often do,” Hay began. “After a couple of games of being a little shaky we fixed a little bit in his form; helped him identify something he could correct easily and he jumped up from there.”
Buckman also had a good day for CHS. He had a really good morning but as he moved inside it became tougher for him.
“The goal is to get them to play places they usually don’t,” said Hay. “Now he’s got a little bit more of a focus in practice. We talk about it but until you experience it… when they experience it they realize they’re going to need it.”
CHS competed in the SWC tourney on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Day one was at Bel-Aire Bowl with day two at Camelot.
The annual Zach LeCuyer Invitational will be on November 13th at Camelot.