Franklin Regional boys edge North Allegheny for WPIBL title |
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Franklin Regional boys edge North Allegheny for WPIBL title

William Whalen
William Whalen | For the Tribune-Review
Members of the Franklin Regional boys bowling team celebrate their 2019 WPIBL title.
William Whalen | For the Tribune-Review
The WPIBL boys 2019 championship all-tournament team, left to right, consisted of Jordan Reges (Butler), Chuck Zihar (Central Catholic), Austen Greco (Hempfield), Trevor Knopp (Beaver Falls), and Alex Smith (Franklin Regional).

Spares win championships, and it came down to the arm of Franklin Regional junior anchor Alex Smith.

Smith made his approach, rolled a strike and came back to pick up a spare to cap the 10th frame and lead the top-seeded Panthers to a 2-0 win over No. 3 North Allegheny on Wednesday at Nesbit’s Lanes.

“I’m just so happy that we were able to do this two times in a row,” said Smith. “It came down to one pin each game, and spares are really important and we made them. It was a lot of fun.”

The win marks Franklin Regional’s second consecutive WPIBL boys title. Smith’s final-frame heroics marked an end to one of the tightest WPIBL boy’s finals in recent history.

“One pin each game and it couldn’t be any tighter than that, and I’m so proud of my boys,” North Allegheny coach Bill Jorden said. “I think bowling is such a mental game, and it’s nerves and I think we did a good job at doing that. The anchor bowler for (Franklin Regional, Alex Smith,) was the best bowler today, and he bowled 100 pins better than everybody so you know when he comes up he’s going to strike.”

Franklin Regional started the first Baker match with two spares and a strike to take the early lead. The Tigers began with two open frames followed by two strikes to even the match. The Panthers came back to take a one-pin win, 161-160.

“It was just absolutely crazy,” Franklin Regional coach Gwen Richards said. “I can’t believe how close the games were.”

It was the Panthers who started off slowly in Game 2. Franklin Regional rolled three opens in its first four frames. Smith started the rally with a strike in the fifth. Smith’s experience in the finals was key to the Panthers’ success.

“I’ve been bowling my entire life,” he said.

For the second game in a row, it came down to Smith and North Allegheny anchor Andrew Cook. Cook struggled in the final frame, and Smith chalked up another strike and added a spare to clinch the win.

“I practice on this kind of stuff all of the time, so my experience really played a big role in how I bowled today,” Smith said.

North Allegheny made it into the semifinals by two pins over Hempfield, 2,628-2,626. Plum finished fifth with a pin total of 2,596.

The Tigers went on to face No. 2 seed Norwin. The Knights got the better of North Allegheny, 182-120, in the first Baker game, but the Tigers rallied to win the last two games to advance.

In addition to the top five placewinners, Kiski Area, Butler and Central Catholic earned a trip to the Western Pa. Regional Championships set for March 9 at North Versailles Bowl.

The WPIBL boys all-tournament team comprised Smith and his 703-pin total, followed by a tie for second place between Hempfield’s Austen Greco and Beaver Falls’ Trevor Knopp at 617. Central Catholic’s Chuck Zihar finished with a 612 and Butler’s Jordan Reges with 608 to round out the top five.

“We’re so excited, and I never thought we’d be back-to-back WPIBL championships,” Richards said. “It’s incredible.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.