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Plum boys, Greensburg Salem girls win 1st Penn-Ohio bowling challenge

William Whalen
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It was only fitting a first-year bowling tourney consisting of 29 schools would come down to two longtime rivals going head-to-head for a championship.

That’s the way the first annual Penn-Ohio High School Challenge shook out. Former WPIBL Southeast Division rivals Plum and Hempfield were the final teams wearing bowling shoes Saturday evening at Greensburg’s Hillview Bowling Lanes.

Plum rallied from a 1-0 deficit to take the final two games in the best-of-three baker’s matches to beat Hempfield 2-1 in the boys/mixed division of the inaugural bowling tourney.

“It feels good to be the first champs,” Plum coach Darryl Pilyih said. “I couldn’t be any happier. Outstanding.”

The Penn-Ohio High School Challenge was organized by Saint Vincent women’s bowling coach Jeff Zidek and his Bearcats bowlers. The field included teams from all over Western Pennsylvania and three teams from Ohio.

“This was an amazing turnout for a first-year event,” said Zidek who also is Saint Vincent’s sports information director. “It speaks volumes as to how popular high school bowling is in this area. It’s just a tremendous turnout, a great tournament and I couldn’t be happier.”

Plum made it through the crowded field in the boys/mixed division and earned a No. 2 seed in the semifinal bracket. The Mustangs got past No. 3 Burrell, 2-1, to advance to the finals. Hempfield earned the No. 4 seed and downed top-seeded Kiski Area, 2-1, in a best of three baker’s matches. Norwin finished fifth. Howland High School, from Warren, Ohio, was the highest-placing Ohio team, finishing sixth.

“The competition level on this kind of condition was very difficult,” Pilyih said. “It was a tough fight all the way through. The kids worked very hard. It was a great show put on by Saint Vincent.”

The boys all-tournament team was led by Kiski Area’s Billy Perroz and his 423-pin total after two games. Hempfield duo Dominick Vallano (400) and Austen Grecko (398) finished second and third, respectively. Franklin Regional’s Mike Zeyus (370) finished fourth, and Plum’s Ethan Grainy (362) rounded out the all-tourney team.

Perroz, the 2018 WPIBL boys MVP, drew a crowd early when he bowled strikes though his first nine frames of his second game before the oil pattern caught up with him. He finished the game with a 267.

“It was difficult, and the first game I struggled,” Perroz said of adjusting his game to the NCAA oil pattern. “I’m surprised I went that far. It’s been pretty difficult. You only have a board or two to play with.”

On the girls side, Butler earned the top seed followed by Greensburg Salem, Norwin and Brookfield (Ohio) going into the semifinals. Brookfield shut out defending WPIBL champion Butler, 2-0, in the baker’s matches. Greensburg Salem knocked out Norwin, 2-1, to set up a Penn-Ohio finals.

The Golden Lions got the better of Brookfield, 2-0, to come away as girls champs.

“They bowled very well today, and we had some issues here and there,” Greensburg Salem coach Jeff Heater said. “The biggest thing for today was that it’s a very big confidence-builder for them. Hopefully it carries over to the regionals, states and the WPIBL championship.”

Nearly every WPIBL team looked at Saturday’s competition as a warm-up for next week’s WPIBL team championships. The boys team championships will be next Wednesday at Nesbit’s Lanes. The girls will compete for the team title Thursday at AMF Noble Manor Lanes in Pittsburgh.

“We have a little bit of stuff to work on before Nesbit’s, but I think this was a really good experience for them,” Franklin Regional coach Gwen Richards said.

Plum’s Shannon Small was the top girls bowler of the afternoon, turning in a score of 391 after the first two games. Burrell’s Carlee Hummell (383) finished second, followed by Kaylee Lipp (359) of Deer Lakes. Ashley Smith (359) of Burrell and Norwin’s Rachel Lundy (353) rounded out the top five.

“It’s nice to see two local schools make it. Also nice to see Plum come in,” Zidek said. “It’s really nice the Brookfield girls, one of our Ohio schools, make it all the way to the championship because that’s what this is supposed to be, a Penn-Ohio championship. “

William Whalen is a freelance writer.