With his team preparing for its sectional final match, Richmond boys bowling coach Mike Higgins took a stroll to see how the Red Devil girls were doing.
He came back with a message.
One down. One to go.
Richmond’s sweep of Mid-Indiana bowling sectional titles has the Red Devils rolling into Saturday’s regional with momentum.
“We’ve really been bowling well in the last month,” Higgins said. “They have really stepped up their game and started making their spares.
“They’ve proved they can run with anybody in the conference. Now, they’re ready to show the rest of the state they can run with them, too.”
It starts at Richmond 40 Bowl, Saturday’s host site for the regional featuring 10 teams from the Mid-Indiana, White River Valley 1 and White River Valley 2 conferences.
Also competing from the Mid-Indiana Conference are Northeastern, Centerville and New Castle on the boys side and Centerville and Blue River on the girls side.
The semistate is Feb. 8 in Indianapolis, followed by the state meet Feb. 15, also in Indy.
Richmond’s girls have advanced to state two straight years.
“They’ve got to definitely stay like they did last weekend and stay clean,” first-year girls coach Ron Hemingway said. ” … They’ve got a really good chance (of returning to state). I’ve told them all year, bowling is all about spare shooting, and that was what got them through last weekend. And I think that’s what will get them through here, plus, you’ve always got a plus side when you’re home. That’s always nice. I think they’ve got a pretty good chance.”
Richmond’s girls feature an experienced group of five seniors: Tabi Smith, Mercedes Hemingway, Cierra Bowman, McKehna Thomas and Lindsay McDonald, along with juniors Megan Gardner and Charlisa Cassady and freshman Tori Shaffer.
With no seniors on the boys team, Higgins figured this might be a rebuilding year for the Red Devils.
Juniors Blake Dunham, Stephen Lakes and Jacob Anderson, sophomores Tyler Bowman and Braden Whited and freshmen Trent Titus, Gary Lewis and Justin Gibbel have just made that building happen sooner rather than later.
“We’re not totally satisfied with just the sectional,” Higgins said. “We want to see how far we can (go).”
Centerville was the runner-up for both sectional titles. Northeastern’s Randy Alexander won the individual sectional title for the boys.
“We’re pretty excited,” Centerville boys coach Mike Downing said. “I think our kids are pretty good bowlers, and we made a huge jump last Saturday. Richmond was able to slide by us, but we had a really good year this year.”
Richmond’s boys had to rally to beat the Bulldogs in their final. Higgins said learning the Red Devils had already secured one championship helped motivate his squad.
“The girls, every one of them, sat there and cheered,” Higgins said. “It was pretty loud. The girls were right there to support us.”
Centerville’s boys are seniors Trent Gentry, David Miller and Adam Downing, junior Brady Wagenknecht, sophomores Kevin Plyley and Dakota Pitcher and freshman Jared Downing.
Centerville’s girls are coached by Frank Poole and feature seniors Alexx Marshall, Cassandra Roberts and Chelsea Crumbaugh, juniors Alexis Cox, Desirea Gulde and Tristin Gentry and freshman Paige Riney.
“I had three brand new girls and two of them were seniors,” Poole said. “The fact that we did as well as we did, finished third in the conference at 7-3, and I’m just proud of the way that my team is close and they get along with each other well and it shows in their ability and support that they give each other.”
That was also key for Northeastern, which is in only its second year as a team.
Anna Berry is the team’s only girl and only senior. Trevor Adams is a junior, while Alexander and Jake Noelker are sophomores and Kelvin Plyley and Austin Woesner are freshmen.
“We came out Saturday and we had fun,” Northeastern coach Sam Alexander said.
“Nobody expected us to make it. We didn’t really expect to make it. We came out, we enjoyed ourselves, we had a good time. … They bowled well, they came together and instead of getting down when they made a bad shot, they picked each other up and moved on, and that’s what it took.”
Individual bowling begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, with the team competition at 1 p.m. Cost is $7. The top three girls teams and top four boys teams advance to the semistate. In the individual tournament, 11 boys and eight girls will move on.
On the boys side, singles qualifiers from the area include Randy Alexander of Northeastern, Wagenknecht, Kevin Plyley and Pitcher of Centerville, and Lakes and Tyler Bowman of Richmond.
On the girls side, Smith, Cierra Bowman, Sadie Hemingway and Cassady of Richmond advance from the area along with Gulde and Cox of Centerville.
“No. 1, I’d like them to have fun, enjoy the regional and represent the school well, represent the team well,” Higgins said. “And bowl well enough to at least give us a shot to advance to the semistate.”