NEW CITY – Bowling is a game of luck, and any bowler will be quick to tell you that. A pin being set just a fraction of an inch off its mark can be the difference between a picture-perfect strike and a disastrous split; but success in bowling, over time, requires much more than a little bit of luck.
Bowlers can ride out a string of fortunate breaks in small sample sizes — a shot here or there, maybe a few shots over the course of a series or tournament — but no bowler enjoys a lengthy, successful career purely riding the coattails of luck.
Case in point: Clarkstown sophomore Brandon Smith.
Smith’s breakout season — which saw him boast the highest average in Rockland County (217.62), third-best finish at the Section 1 tournament (225.83), and ninth-best series at the state tournament (213.83) — didn’t happen by accident, and it certainly wasn’t all luck.
Smith’s practice regimen of 35-50 games a week paid dividends, from his regular-season awards, to postseason success, to his Journal News Rockland boys bowler of the year honor. All of that was earned through his hard work and dedication; but his most notable accomplishment — a perfect 300 game at the state tournament, that required some luck.
“I threw the shot (the 12th ball), and I saw it was hooking maybe halfway down the lane, and I started walking away,” he said. “Then I was like, ‘I’ve seen some pretty crazy breaks, so why not look?’ Then I saw them fall, and I just kind of erupted.”
Smith said he and the rest of the Section 1 individual state representatives had talked on the bus ride up to Buffalo, predicting that there would be a perfect game shot at states. Smith was just hoping to be in the same building as one. “It would be awesome to see one,” he said.
Smith practiced on the NYSPHSAA tournament oil pattern for about 50 games between New City Bowl and Hi-Tor Lanes to prepare for his final event of the high school season. Clarkstown coaches John Lenna, owner of New City Bowl, and Corey Stahl, worked with their pupil to see which bowling balls worked best throughout various stages of the lane breakdown.
“I think that helped,” Smith said, adding that Lenna and Stahl advised him not to look at the scores. “You’re practicing to practice, not practicing to say, ‘Hey, I can shoot a high game!” because if you do shoot a high game in practice, it doesn’t matter.”
Smith has no regrets about the season, but there was one thing he would’ve liked to accomplish that will have to wait until next year: “Probably just to win states.”
The Section 1 boys all-stars finished second overall, 169 pins behind Section 11. While most bowlers never get the chance to even return to the state tournament again in their careers, Smith and the army of loaded young talent in the section should be back in full force in 2017.
Of the six state representatives this year, only one — Yorktown senior Matt Myers — will graduate. The rest of the team includes one junior (North Rockland’s Nick Sparta), two freshmen (Panas’ Nick Perrone and Suffern’s Tommy Chamberlain) and an eighth-grader (North Rockland’s Nick Varano).
“We’ve experienced it, so hey, why not have a huge goal next year if we do make it?” Smith said.
The rest of the Journal News first team includes:
Tommy Chamberlain, Suffern: The freshman earned an all-section selection with the 14th-highest average in Section 1 (206.79, third in Rockland), then earned a trip to states with a fourth-place finish at the section tournament, shooting 1,338 for six games. Chamberlain placed 20th at states (198.17).
Nick Sparta, North Rockland: The junior punched his ticket to states after a heart-pounding roll-off at the Section 1 tournament. Sparta averaged 203.04 during the year (20th in the section) and shot 1,307 at the section tournament.
Johnny Toscano, North Rockland: The senior and anchor of the Red Raiders’ team most of the year, Toscano averaged 210.66 during the regular season, trailing only Smith in the county. Toscano finished 17th at sections, shooting 1,240.
Nick Varano, North Rockland: For the second straight year, the young gun proved he belongs with the big boys. The eighth-grader took top honors at the Section 1 tournament after averaging 240.6 for six games and placed 14th at states, averaging 205.83 in another six-game tournament.
Coach of the year
Don LaSpina, North Rockland
Gabriel Duran, North Rockland, Jr.
John Houlihan, Clarkstown, Jr.
James Pietrangelo, Clarkstown, Jr.
Matt Russell, Tappan Zee, So.
Tyler Witte, Pearl River, Sr.
Josh Cruz, North Rockland, So.; Warren Collins Jr., North Rockland, Jr.; Sean Mandel, Clarkstown, Jr.; Michael O’Malley, Clarkstown, Fr.