High joins elite company as L-L champ Nihoff also reaches final round
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
Considering what her season average was, Manheim Central junior bowler Aerika High gladly took her score of 225 against Warwick’s Bryanna Nihoff last Wednesday, Feb. 15.
Especially since it was good enough for a 225-171 conquest of the Warwick senior in the opening game of the stepladder finals in the Lancaster-Lebanon League Championships.
But after that, High only got better.
She averaged 264 over her next three games, culminating with a 257-256 victory over Pequea Valley’s Eric Erb to clinch the L-L singles crown at Leisure Lanes in Lancaster.
"I was very pleased," Manheim Central coach Chuck Ruhl said of High, who averaged 197.42 during the regular season. "She didn’t let the pressure get to her. In that situation, when you’re going head-to-head, you can let the pressure get to you and she handled the pressure very well."
In the process, High also put herself in elite company, joining 2008 L-L champ Samantha Santoro, of Cocalico, as the only girls ever to capture the League crown.
"I knew that (Aerika) was very capable of doing this," Ruhl said. "She’s a very good bowler. She stays very focused at bowling and it really wasn’t a surprise to me."
High showed that focus while rolling a six-game series of 1,421 in the first round, good for fifth place. That easily surpassed the cut, with Manheim Township’s Mike Bracero advancing with a 1,366 in the 10th and final spot. Nihoff moved on with a score of 1,407.
"Bryanna bowled really consistent at Leagues," Warwick coach Bill Bernstein remarked. "She threw a 660 series and a 740 series in the opening round which put her in seventh place overall."
In the stepladder qualifiers, High turned in a 659 series and Nihoff was just four pins behind with 655, placing them fourth and fifth, respectively, heading to the stepladder finals.
Overall, Nihoff averaged about 220 for the day, which was roughly 12 pins better than her average, but High was a little bit better in the opening game of the finals.
"Aerika was really consistent in that game and Bryanna was unlucky on a couple of good shots," Bernstein said. "I think after Bryanna opened in the late frames, and Aerika strung a few strikes together, it was inevitable that it wasn’t to be Bryanna’s day. Aerika bowled even better as she went forward in the stepladder rounds, beating three really tough competitors. I think it says a lot about our girls in the L-L League that they can not only compete with the boys, but in this case, beat them."
Indeed, High continued to advance by defeating Penn Manor’s Will Welsh 278-211 and Ephrata’s Keith Sholly 258-246.
That sent her to the championship against Erb, who clinched the top seed in the second round with a three-game series of 761. That equated to an average of 253.
But High rattled off seven straight strikes entering the 10th frame to pull her even with Erb, who had five strikes in a row.
"I bowl in a league, and when you bowl seven strikes in a row, it’s impressive at any level, I think, to be able to keep your focus and be able to not let the pressure get to you," Ruhl remarked.
In the final frame, both bowlers opened with a strike on their first ball. Erb then left the No. 5 pin standing on his next attempt and then he failed to convert the spare.
Meanwhile, High dropped every pin except the No. 8 on her second ball, but then finished off the spare to clinch the victory.
"(Aerika) definitely handled herself very well," Ruhl said.
Manheim Central’s Ronnie Kingsboro, who edged out High during the regular season by mere percentage points for the Barons’ top average, and freshman Kelsey Hammons also advanced to Districts, set for this Saturday, Feb. 25 at Berks Lanes. Kingsboro finished third in the League’s first round with a series of 1463, but then missed advancing by just two spots to the stepladder finals, placing eighth in the qualifiers with a 611. Since Hammons didn’t bowl any varsity games this season, she is ineligible to qualify for States.
"I’d like to see all three of them do real well to have Ronnie and Aerika go to States," Ruhl said. "I’d like to see (Kelsey) do very well in (Districts) too to really give her experience for upcoming years because she’s only a freshman."
Warwick, meanwhile, will send Nihoff, senior Johanna Joseph and sophomore Brandi Whitmyer to Districts. Nihoff will attempt to defend the District crown she won last year. Joseph and Whitmyer qualified with averages of 190 and 188, good for sixth and eighth in the L-L League overall.
For Regionals, which are set for next Friday and Saturday, March 2-3, Joseph, Nihoff and Whitmyer will be joined in the individual competition by senior Brianna Weaver, who qualified with a 174 average (16th overall), and junior Zack Adams, who is Warwick’s lone boy representative. He qualified with a 201 average, which was 19th overall in the boys division. The singles competition will be held Friday, March 2, with the boys competing at Leisure Lanes and the girls at Dutch Lanes. Finals for both boys and girls will be held at Leisure Lanes.
The Warwick girls team, consisting of sophomore Kelsey Snavely, Weaver, Whitmyer, Joseph and Nihoff, will also compete at Regionals for the opportunity to return to the State Championships.
The team competition will be held Saturday, March 3, with the boys at Leisure Lanes and the girls at Dutch Lanes.
"We finished fifth in the state last year," Bernstein said, "and we hope to have another good showing." More L-L BOWLING, page B-6