As the final frame came to a close Monday afternoon it was the Walker Valley Mustangs who had all the reasons to celebrate.
Not only had they earned a 19-8 match point victory over Smyrna in sectional competition, they had also punched a ticket for their return trip to the TSSAA State Bowling Tournament.
“These kids really worked hard all year, and we’re excited to be going back to State again,” Walker Valley coach Dean Anderson stated.
After the first game, despite splitting the heads-up matches in half, it was Smyrna who came out ahead 5-3 with a slight pinfall advantage of 1,094-1,030.
The next two games would turn out in Walker Valley’s favor, as it dominated the lanes and secured a sectional win.
“We were behind by two (team points) and down by 64 pins after the first game. Then the guys came back and drew from their hearts and took seven out of the eight points in the second game, and took overall pins,” Anderson described. “Then in the third game their courageous spirit continued on as they fought and took six out of the eight points to defeat a top-notch Smyrna team.”
In game one, Tanner Kincaid, Jacob Baker and Caleb Zanoska all won match points and also went on to be the three team members who won a point in each consecutive game.
Baker bowled a 584 series, with a pinfall high of 213 in the first game.
Kincaid bowled a 538 series with a high of 220 in the second game.
Zanoska bowled a 493 series with a high of 168 in the first game.
In the second game Walker Valley led Smyrna with a pinfall of 1,061-979, and claimed all but one of the available match points.
Going into the final game, the Mustangs were up 10-6 and another strong performance on the lanes ensured that the Bulldogs were unable to win anything more than two match points.
Mustang Briton Helton bowled a 555 series, with his high of 214 coming in the final game.
Teammate Dylan Dawson, who won a match point in game two with his high of 178, bowled a 513 series.
Nathan Kirby bowled a 475 series, and bowled a high of 168 in the third game. Kirby won match points in the second and third games for the victors.
Walker Valley’s final pinfall was 3,158 to Smyrna’s 3,087.
The Tennessee Prep Bowling Rankings for Jan. 17 had the Mustangs (26-1) listed sixth, while the Lady Mustangs (23-0) were ranked seventh.
While Coach Anderson enjoys the high rankings, he also knows rankings mean nothing on the day of competition.
“It’s a great feeling, but when it comes down to it rankings mean nothing. What matters is who shows up that day, who is going to pick up their spares and who is going to roll. I tell the teams that it’s one frame at a time and one game at a time,” Anderson explained.
At the boys’ state tournament Walker Valley will be joined by Dobyns-Bennett (22-1), Sevier County (15-3), top-ranked Columbia (21-3), fourth-ranked Hendersonville (22-6), No. 2 Upperman (20-1), fifth-ranked Hardin County (14-2) and No. 10 Collierville (16-1).
At the girls’ state tournament the unbeaten Lady Mustangs will be joined by top-ranked Dobyns-Bennett (23-0), Chuckey-Doak (16-7), No. 4 Columbia (21-3), fifth-ranked White House (19-1), No. 3 Wilson Central (25-1), second-ranked Hardin County (16-0) and No. 6 White Station (12-1).
The TSSAA state tournaments will be held at the Smyrna Bowling Center.
Individual state competition, which includes five Walker Valley bowlers, will begin Thursday with the state championship to be determined Friday morning.
The team quarterfinals will be Friday afternoon, with the semifinals that evening and state title matches on Saturday.