LOVES PARK – Its too bad Dixon’s bowling team didn’t advance out of the regional. With the way their individual qualifiers performed Saturday at the IHSA sectional, the Dukes likely would have made a run for a state berth as a team.
Ryan Dixon and Joel Spangler left Park Lanes as state qualifiers, and Lucas Bonnette was only 19 pins away from joining them.
“Our guys had the talent to make it,” Dixon coach Allen Wickert said. “We couldn’t get all five together at the same time. It would have been nice to see what we could have done today, though.”
Sycamore (6,578) won the sectional in a mild upset over NIC-10 powers Harlem, Hononegah and Guilford. Vernon Hills and Lake Park were the other state qualifiers. Oregon finished 10th in the 16-team field with 5,983 pins.
Besides making state as an individual, Ryan Dixon had an inordinate amount of attention focused on him in the afternoon session. In the fourth game, he had a perfect game intact for the first nine frames.
Unfortunately, he left the four pin up on that frame, and settled for a 279 after picking up the spare and finishing with a strike.
“I threw the ball out in the dry area of the lane,” said Dixon on the missed strike.
Even with the disappointment of missing a perfect game, the 279 moved Dixon from what he described as “not even being on the first sheet of leaders” to fourth place overall.
“From then on, it was a matter of finishing and being consistent,” Dixon said. “I just needed to be around 200.”
The 2-time state qualifier as a team member made it three straight trips downstate with a 213 and 208 to close out a 1,363 series.
Brandon Biondo of Jacobs had a 1,462 to claim the individual title, with freshman phenom Jacob Nimtz of Harlem next at 1,455. Dixon’s score was good for fifth place.
Dixon got off to a shaky start with a 172. Admitting he was nervous and anxious, he got untracked on the third frame of the second game; he finished with a 236.
“I started getting more strikes and picking up spares,” Dixon said. “I like a challenge, and that’s what I faced after the first game.”
He also got some encouragement from his coach.
“I told him he had a lot of time left, and to dig out of that hole,” Wickert said.
While Dixon had a comfortable margin going into the final game, Spangler had to sweat things out, not once, but twice.
He was in 10th place, but only nine pins out of the seventh and final qualifying spot. After nine frames, his position was even more precarious, with a 169 showing on his scorecard.
In dramatic fashion, Spangler rolled three straight strikes to punch his ticket downstate by two pins. His 1,329 series edged Kyle Pattalio of Belvidere by one pin for sixth. Brady Powell of Barrington missed qualifying by one pin with a 1,327.
“I was in trouble,” Spangler said. “Those three strikes saved me. I was definitely on the bubble.”
However, the joy he felt soon turned to uncertainty, as his name wasn’t called as one of the seven at-large qualifiers.
“I freaked out,” Spangler said. “I ran over to my coach and told them they had it wrong.”
The oversight by the PA announcer was soon rectified, and Spangler could finally rest easy.
Spangler started the day strong with a 221 and a 234. Then, a 193 dropped him from 22nd to 41st in overall standings (including team qualifiers).
Like Dixon, it was the fourth game that gave him a boost. After a pep talk from Wickert and a lunch fast, a 259 put him back in the mix.
“Joel was on fire quite a bit today,” Wickert said. “And, I don’t think we’ve ever had a one game with three bowlers that good.”
Besides the 279 and 259 by Dixon and Spangler, Bonnette also had a 259 in game No. 4.
Bonnette finished with a 1,310, and was in 24th place going into the final game. A 204 moved him up one spot, leaving him 19 pins out of joining Dixon and Spangler at state. Keenan Longan also competed for Dixon.
“Keenan was up and down trying to find the right line,” Wickert said. “I’m very pleased with how everybody bowled.”
“All my teammates did a great job,” Dixon added. “Lucas was so close.”
AJ Nordman of Oregon was another near miss for a trip to O’Fallon, site of next weekend’s state tournament.
The son of coach Al Nordman had a 1,315, just 13 pins off the mark. His top score was a 260 on what seemed to be everyone’s favorite – the fourth game.
“He had a good afternoon, but a couple splits at wrong times hurt,” coach Nordman said. “He still had a chance going into the last three frames.”
Nordman left a 10 pin, and then had a great ball, but the eight pin remained standing. Ryan Bennett was next in scoring for Oregon.
“The guys really struggled today,” Nordman said. “We couldn’t get any strikes going.”
Coming into the sectional, Nordman knew the only way his team would advance is if all bowlers were on top of their games.
“When we walked into the sectionals at Dixon, we knew we’d beat half the teams,” Nordman said. “With the new sectional format, the only chance for us was to get hot. If not, we get smoked because there are no tunas here at Rockford.”
1. Sycamore 6,578; 2. Harlem 6,545; 3. Vernon Hills 6,435; 4. Hononegah 6,416; 5. Lake Park 6,397; 6. Guilford 6,302
Local team – 10. Oregon 5,983
Local individual qualifiers
Ryan Dixo (Dixon) 1,363; Joel Spangler (Dixon) 1,329