State Champion bowling team

In four short years, the Conotton Valley girls bowling program went from a new sport to a state champion.

The Lady Rockets made school history March 3 when the team became the first team in any sport to win a state championship.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Coach Brian Baxter said just minutes after his team was presented the Division II state bowling championship trophy at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl. “We’ve put four years into this program, we’ve put a ton of time in and we’ve got some great kids. It all came together today.”

The win didn’t come easy for Baxter’s team, which found itself down two Baker games to none in the best of five championship series against Sandusky Perkins.

After losing the first Baker 153-142 and the second 222-215, the Lady Rockets were on the brink of defeat.

“The girls hung in there,” Baxter said. “They bowled great and did what they had to do.”
What the team had to do was beat Sandusky Perkins in the next three Bakers to take the crown.

The Rockets rallied to win the third Baker 185-142 and the fourth 182-159 to set up a showdown in the final game…which the girls won 182-168.

“When we were down by two games, we actually were thinking we were going to lose and telling ourselves it was going to be ok, we were going to be state runners-up,” said senior Daphne Stuber, who earned first team All-Ohio honors for her performance in the individual games competition. “Then we came back and won the next game and the next game. That other team thought they had us, but we came back and ripped them. What a great way to end my senior year!”

Baxter was overtaken my emotion when he realized his team could win the state title.

As the bowlers were taking the final throws in the competition, Baxter stepped back, sat down and wiped tears from his eyes.

“At that moment I was at least 95 percent sure we had them,” Baxter said when asked later what was going through his mind at that moment.

“I was thinking about all the hard work we went through to get there. It’s very special to watch these kids experience this: to let alone get this far and then to win it. It’s awesome!”

Qualifying for the state event alongside the boys team, was a big event for the small school that got its own bowling alley as part of the Rocket Center project.

In fact, it was such a big deal to have any sports team qualify for the state tournament, school was closed for the day so fans could attend the event, held at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl.

The Rockets advanced to the championship round by posting scores of 875, 924 and 891 in the individual regulation games for a 2,690 total, just four pins behind second place Carrollton with a 2,694. The Rockets added Baker games of 159, 153 and 193 for a 505 total and a team total of 3,235, which qualified the team in third place. The top eight teams advanced.

Conotton Valley knocked St. Mary’s Memorial out the championship round by winning the first Baker 200-193, and then faced two runoffs on the next Baker game. After tying the first 16-16, the squad won the second 37-36 and went on to advance to the semifinals with a 186-164 win in the third Baker.

That win and Carrollton’s win over St. Paris Graham in the quarterfinals, set up a show down between the two Carroll County teams for a spot in the championship match.

The Rockets won the first game 192-157 over the Warriors and the second 163-161. Carrollton took the third game 213-146 before the Rockets snuck past their neighbors 176-174 to move to the championship match.

Individually, Stuber placed fourth overall with a games of 188, 246 and 192 for a 626 series. Teammate Mackenzie Willoughby, a junior, earned Honorable Mention All-Ohio with a games of 212, 212 and 161 for a 587 series.

Delilah Williams, a freshman, was 24th with a 553 series (166, 186, 201).