Different paths led Johnny LeMaster and his older brother, Henry, to the Big Walnut High School boys bowling team.
Johnny, a junior, was looking to make new friends, while Henry, a senior, needed two physical education credits and didn't want a huge commitment to a sport like football, basketball or baseball that can require year-round workouts.
"I was new at Big Walnut and I wanted to do something," Johnny said. "My friend, (teammate Jacob Bowens), told me about the bowling team tryouts. I went, and I enjoyed it."
The LeMaster brothers' curiosity with bowling has evolved into a love for the game and success in the sport, as the two are among the better bowlers in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference.
Through seven matches, Johnny was 31st among the area's 349 bowlers with a 193.5 game average (2,908 pins), while Henry was 100th with a 167.7 average (2,515 pins). The brothers also had the top two scores for the Golden Eagles in a two-game series, as Johnny had a 467 and Henry had a 428.
Johnny was a Division I district qualifier last season, rolling a 470 (132-167-171) to tie for 95th of 127 competitors.
"Johnny has really put a lot of work into his game," said second-year coach Scott Morrison, whose boys team was 3-4 overall before competing against Whetstone on Jan. 17 and London on Jan. 19 and is 3-3 in the COHSBC-A Division and 2-3 in the OCC-Buckeye Division. "He's really become consistent. He made districts last year as a sophomore and he really worked on his game a lot over the summer."
The brothers haven't had much formal coaching, but they spend many Friday and Saturday nights on the lanes practicing and watching their games improve.
"Once we both started doing it, we started learning together, and that's when (Johnny) started getting more involved when I joined," Henry said.
Morrison described the brothers as very similar bowlers.
"The only thing that separates them is consistency," Morrison said. "Henry may bowl a 237, but then come up with a 170. Johnny is typically going to be a 220 or right around 200. They're very competitive, but have a great relationship, and Henry would be the first to tell you that Johnny is better."
The brothers have learned that mental toughness has much to do with their success.
"Really, you're playing (against) yourself, and it's really up to you to remember what to do and where to throw it," Henry said. "A lot of that is in your own head, if you can keep doing that the entire game or not."
That wherewithal and consistency will help determine whether Big Walnut can qualify for the district tournament as a team this season.
Last season, the Golden Eagles finished 28th (3,308) of 42 teams at sectional, behind champion Olentangy Liberty (4,168), and did not qualify for district.
Qualifying as a team this year will depend on the success of Bowens, Chris Fetter and Matt Preistas, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury.
Through seven matches, Preistas had a 168.5 average, followed by Fetter (167.8) and Bowens (161.9).
Balanced scoring helps boys basketball team
Three players scored in double figures in the boys basketball team's 62-51 league victory over visiting Groveport on Jan. 16. The Golden Eagles were 6-5 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Capital before playing Canal Winchester on Jan. 19.
Kegan Hienton scored a game-high 20 points against Groveport. Brody Lawhun had 15 points and Nathan Montgomery added 12 for the Golden Eagles, who outscored the Cruisers 12-5 in the first quarter.
Big Walnut had won three of its last four games entering play Jan. 19.
Girls basketball team adds to victory total
The girls basketball team struggled early in its league contest Jan. 16 at Groveport, but rallied and pulled away from the Cruisers on its way to a 57-27 victory.
Big Walnut trailed 7-6 after the first quarter but outscored the Cruisers 14-8 in the second quarter, 20-8 in the third and 17-4 in the fourth to improve to 8-5 overall and 3-3 in the OCC-Capital.
Erin Boehm led all scorers with 19 points. Nine players scored for the Golden Eagles, including Katie Cochran with 12 points and Emily Neff and Avery Schone both with eight.
Big Walnut opened second-round play in the OCC-Capital against Canal Winchester on Jan. 19.
Below are the coming schedules for the Big Walnut boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
Jan. 23 -- At Olentangy
*Jan. 26 -- At New Albany. The Golden Eagles lost to the Eagles 52-42 on Dec. 15.
Jan. 23 -- Home vs. Olentangy
*Jan. 26 -- Home vs. New Albany. The Golden Eagles lost to the Eagles 59-51 on Dec. 15.
*Jan. 22 -- Marysville at Capri Lanes
Jan. 26 -- Delaware at Capri Lanes
Jan. 27 -- Dresden Tri-Valley Invitational
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 26 -- OCC-Capital diving meet at New Albany
Jan. 27 -- OCC-Capital swimming meet at New Albany
Jan. 27 -- Watkins Memorial Invitational