Winning the NJSIAA Group IV state title on Thursday morning wasn’t enough for the Brick Memorial boys bowling team.
The Mustangs had to outdo themselves in the afternoon session by beating some of the best teams in the state.
As the No. 1 seed in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions, Brick Memorial defeated No. 4 seed Ewing, 3-1, in the TOC first round and then defeated No. 3 seed Immaculata, 3-1, in the TOC final to earn the right to call themselves the best boys bowling team in the state.
“We got a little bit of a break at the end and (Immaculata) didn’t get so much of a break. What I take out of it, is they have really grown as a team,” Brick Memorial boys bowling coach Mike Bilello said.
Brick Memorial won the first game handily, 215-177 and the second game, 246-212, to take a 2-0 lead in the TOC final at Carolier Lanes in North Brunswick. Immaculata avoided the sweep by winning game three, 217-171, pushing the match to a fourth game.
“I just said to them at the end, even though we have a lot of kids coming back next season this team is never going to be together again after this season,” Bilello said. “It is a special bond that you have when you win something like that.”
The TOC title didn’t come easy as the fourth game came down to the 10th frame. The schools were tied at 98-98 after the fourth frame and 118-118 after the fifth frame. Immaculata took a one-pin advantage after the sixth frame, 138-137, and increased that lead to 11 pins after the seventh frame (168-157) before Brick Memorial finished in style.
“I was hoping that they (Immaculata) would end up messing up. In reality, the only person you have control over is yourself,” Brick Memorial junior Jared Stuart said. “So, I was just hoping our team would pick it up on our end and it ended up working out in our favor.”
The Mustangs closed out the fourth game by rolling strikes in the eighth and ninth frames thanks to senior Bret Downs (eighth frame) and Andrew Lazarchick (ninth frame) before Stuart clinched it in the 10th frame.
Stuart rolled a strike on the first ball of the 10th frame and then knocked off six and then two pins on his final two balls of the frame. Conversely, Immaculata bowled consecutive strikes in the eighth and ninth frames before knocking down nine and then no pins on its two balls in the 10th frame.
And that wrapped up the fourth game, 231-225, in favor of Brick Memorial securing the TOC title.
“You got Jackson Memorial, you got Immaculata, you have all these great schools (here today) and it is a great feeling to know that we were one of the top schools today, ” Stuart said.
In the state championship round, the Shore Conference had seven teams qualify in three groups with Brick Memorial winning the Group IV state title over second place Jackson Memorial 3,280 to 3,034 and Freehold Township finished fourth with 2,919 pins.
In the Group II championship, Central Regional was fifth (2,947 pins), Manchester was seventh (2,820 pins) and Matawan was 10th (2,598 pins) while Ewing won with 3,097 pins. In the Group I championship, Keansburg finished seventh (2,667 pins) but Immaculata represented Group I in the TOC after knocking over 3,220 pins. The Shore Conference didn’t have a participant in the Group III championship as Montville won with 3,250 pins.
The Shore Conference had two of the four bowlers to roll a perfect game during Thursday’s competition and overall had four of the seven high games. Central Regional’s Thomas Carter and Manchester’s Christopher Lietz each rolled a perfect game while Brick Memorial’s Jared Stuart rolled a 289 (fifth best) and Brick Memorial’s Andrew Lazarchick tied with Indian Hills’ Alex McGuire with a 279, which was sixth best.