Nihoff takes third at District Bowling Manheim Central’s High finishes fourth

By on March 1, 2012

By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer

Photo by Stan Hall
Warwick bowlers (left to right) Johanna Joseph, Bryanna Nihoff and Brandi Whitmyer earned top-34 finishes at the District Three Bowling Championships last Saturday.

In the short history of the District Three Bowling Championships, there has never been a repeat champion.

Last Saturday, Warwick’s Bryanna Nihoff was looking to become the first.

The 2011 girls champ was certainly the favorite after rolling a 659 series and a 720 series, for an overall score of 1379 in the qualifying round. That was 46 pins better than Wilson’s Paige Graeff (1333) for the number one seed going to the bracket finals.

"(Bryanna) was unbelievable," Warwick coach Bill Bernstein said. "I’d say the last three to four weeks, she really started to get on a hot streak. She’s had several 700 series from the last week of our season into our post-season."

Both Nihoff and Graeff earned a first-round bye and automatic berth to the semis. There, the Warwick senior remained on her hot streak with a score of 225, which was easily above her league average of 208. Pequea Valley’s fifth-seeded Chelsey Merklinger, though, was a little bit better. Coming off a 232-194 conquest of Lancaster Catholic’s Sara Strausbaugh in the quarter-finals, Merklinger defeated Nihoff 244-225 to punch her ticket to the championship match. Nihoff ended up placing third in the competition.

"It was a great score," Bernstein said of Nihoff’s 225. "She was upset because she didn’t finish how she wanted to, but not everybody is going to bowl their absolute best game every time they go out. But it’s not like she bowled an awful game. She lost with a 225. That’s a great score."

Great, too, considering that the bowlers were competing in a modified house shot, a tougher condition involving the oil patterns.

"(That) makes Nihoff’s accomplishment even more amazing because she’s doing that on a tougher shot than she normally bowls," Bernstein said.

Manheim Central junior Aerika High, the reigning L-L League champ, also advanced to the bracket finals as the sixth seed and took care of Governor Mifflin’s Lauren Stamm 236-192 in the quarters, then dropped a 224-204 loss to Graeff in the semi-finals. High finished the competition in fourth place.

"(Aerika’s scores) were pretty good," Manheim Central coach Chuck Ruhl said. "She had one or two bad games, but overall I think she really did good with the oil pattern. It changes things, so it’s just a matter of adjusting and I thought she adjusted well to that."

High had series scores of 681 and 568 in the qualifying round, good for an overall score of 1249 to place sixth, just ahead of teammate Kelsey Hammons, who was seventh with a six-game score of 1214.

"Four of (Aerika’s) games were over 200, which was enough to get her to qualify," Ruhl remarked. "… She wasn’t pleased with her bad games, but no one’s ever pleased with their performance when they know they could have done better."

Nihoff rolled six strikes in her match against Merklinger, a Pequea Valley sophomore, but left one frame open. Merklinger, meanwhile, rattled off six strikes in a row at one point to help her win by 19 pins, and then she went on to defeat Graeff 298-188 for the title.

"It’s kinda tough to overcome when your opponent’s stringing them like that and you end up opening a frame," Bernstein said. "But (Bryanna) bowled really well. I don’t remember what frame (was left open), I want to say it was the seventh or eighth frame … just kind of an unlucky ball."

It proved to be another example of the challenge bowlers face to defend their titles.

"I’m not sure that she felt like she had something to prove," Bernstein said. "I think she just wanted really badly to go back and repeat … It’s hard to do. You’re bowling the best of the best. I don’t know if she’s aware of the fact that no one has done it. I think she’s just a bowler that has a ton of confidence in her game and feels like she can go out and do that any given day. And she certainly has the ability. It’s just … that’s why they play the game."

Warwick senior Johanna Joseph and sophomore Brandi Whitmyer also competed at Districts and finished 21st and 34th, respectively. Joseph put together two series of 528 and 549, for a total of 1077 in the qualifying round, while Whitmyer finished with scores of 485 and 499, good for 984 in her first District competition.

"I thought (Johanna and Brandi) did really well," Bernstein said. "(Brandi) was not happy with her outcome … She just struggled on the lanes, but I think in the circumstance that she was in and the level of competition she was bowling against, I still thought she had a great showing. (Johanna) started off struggling a bit and she kinda got into a groove."

Ronnie Kingsboro also competed in the boys division at Districts for Manheim Central and struggled with the oil patterns while taking 33rd place with a score of 1071.

The Warwick and Manheim Central bowlers will return to action this Friday and Saturday at Regionals. Joseph, Nihoff, Whitmyer and senior Brianna Weaver will represent Warwick in girls individuals on Friday, March 2 at Dutch Lanes, while junior Zack Adams will bowl in boys action at Leisure Lanes. Finals for both boys and girls will be held at Leisure Lanes.

Then on Saturday, the Warwick girls team, consisting of sophomore Kelsey Snavely, Weaver, Whitmyer, Joseph and Nihoff, will compete at Dutch Lanes, where they will try to qualify again for the State Championships. Last year, they placed fifth at States.

Manheim Central, meanwhile, will be represented by Kingsboro and High in the singles competitions. On Saturday, the Barons will bowl in the boys team division with Ryan Alcala, Landon Brenize, Ethan Crills, Darren Fjeldsted, Kelsey Hammons, High, Neil Hostetter and Kingsboro. More BOWLING, page B-3

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