Pickerington North Roundup: Beat rolls on for Panthers boys bowlers as records fall

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Ethan Yurko and the North boys team have been on a roll heading toward the postseason, which begins with a Division I sectional Feb. 19 at HP Lanes. Before facing Hilliard Bradley on Feb. 11, the Panthers had won three consecutive matches and five out of six.

The Pickerington North boys bowling team was delighted to learn as the regular season wound down that no record is safe.

In the process of winning three consecutive matches and five out of six before facing Hilliard Bradley on Feb. 11 – a stretch in which North exceeded 2,400 pins twice and averaged 2,306.5 per match – one Panther set a record for high game, only to see that mark tied a week later and broken two days after that.

That three Panthers were responsible for those records, and one was a frame away from a perfect game in the process, left coach Mike Rossi and the team convinced that they are peaking at the right time entering a Division I sectional tournament Feb. 19 at HP Lanes.

“We have picked it up tremendously,” Rossi said. “We left that Groveport match (Feb. 1 at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl) mad because we’d lost by 17 pins (2,248-2,231). We were right there. A couple mistakes at the end cost of us. We told ourselves we’d been averaging about 2,100 and we knew were capable. We sat on the bus knowing we were a 2,300 or 2,400 team.

“We started picking up our spares and we got Ethan (Yurko) back (from a COVID-19 quarantine). Hopefully that gets us heading back in the right direction.”

North was 7-3 overall and 6-3 in the COHSBC-B Division before Feb. 11. It went 5-1 in the OCC-Central to split the league championship with Gahanna.

Jacob Neubauer rolled a 289, setting the program’s single-game record, Jan. 26 against Worthington Kilbourne at Capri Lanes.

Seven days later, Yurko tied that mark and rolled a record 533 two-game series Feb. 2 against Marysville at Rule 3.

About 48 hours after that on the same lanes, Jack Rodgers recorded a 297 – missing a perfect game by one frame – and finished with a 543 series in a 2,433-2,141 win over Hilliard Davidson. Rodgers was perfect through his first 11 frames but rolled a 7 on his final turn.

“If I could have that last shot back, I wish I’d have taken more time to breathe,” Rodgers said. “I switched up some things with my release (recently) and it clearly has helped me. I went from bowling 150 games to bowling 240, way exceeding what I ever expected.

“The thing that really changed me for us was I used to have just my fingertips in the ball, but I started putting up to about halfway down my finger in and I moved my target closer down the lane to me. All of a sudden, I felt like I could hit every shot.”

For both boys and girls, the top 16 teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Feb. 22 at HP Lanes. From district, the top four girls teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams and top three boys teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to state March 5 and 6, respectively, at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl.

“We’re having a lot of fun. The kids are enjoying it,” Rossi said. “If you’re bowling well, this is the right time of year.”

Girls bowlers

prepare for sectional

Rossi admitted he had a few lineup decisions to make for the girls team entering its sectional Feb. 18 at HP Lanes.

The Panthers had a clear-cut top six during the regular season in Alana Robinson (153.6), Evy Vance (136.7), Abby McFerin (126.6), Gabby Furrow (119.0), Sienna Reedus (117.1) and Chelsea Rager (112.5), but 10 bowlers participated in at least one game.

North was 4-4 overall and in the COHSBC-B before Feb. 11 and finished 1-2 in the OCC-Central.

“They’ve been bowling well, just fine,” Rossi said. “There are a couple girls teams that are way up there ahead of everybody else but every match has been competitive. That said, they’ve been hanging in there and bowling against everybody. They really (wanted) to finish over .500; that was a huge goal.

“We were hoping (for this depth). We have a few freshmen who will be good and girls are coming along. We have six seniors, though, so getting a lot of girls in now hopefully will pay off next year. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Casey George and North were still alive for the OCC-Ohio title entering play Feb. 12 against New Albany. The Panthers were 10-4 overall and 6-2 in the league, a game behind first-place Gahanna.

Boys basketball team

harbored title hopes

The boys basketball team controlled its destiny to earn at least a share of the OCC-Ohio championship before playing New Albany on Feb. 12, and coach Jason Bates thinks that possibility and a challenging schedule are exactly the motivation his squad needs as the postseason approaches.

North was 10-4 overall and 6-2 in the OCC-Ohio before playing New Albany, one game behind first-place Gahanna (7-1). The Panthers visit the Lions on Feb. 19 to wrap up league play, a rematch of Gahanna’s 62-59 win Jan. 30.

North and Westerville Central, which edged Gahanna 65-64 on Feb. 5, were tied for second place before Feb. 12.

“It’s February. It’s starting to be tournament-type of ball,” Bates said. “In years past, we’ve had schedules where you can play anybody out of town and I’ve bragged about how tough our schedule is. This schedule this year has been one of our toughest. People might not believe that but every night, it’s been tough. …

“We’re still alive (for the league title). It’s still a tall task, but it’s a good feeling to know the work we’ve done has put us in a situation where we have a chance.”

North rebounded from consecutive losses to Gahanna and at Newark, 42-41 on Feb. 3, with home wins over Grove City (58-47 on Feb. 5) and St. Charles (64-61 in double overtime Feb. 6). The Panthers trailed St. Charles 50-41 halfway through the fourth quarter before a late rally included Jerry Saunders’ game-tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation and Casey George making all three free throws after being fouled during a shot with .2 of a second left in the second overtime.

North earned the seventh seed in the 49-team Division I district tournament and will play host to 34th-seeded New Albany or 41st-seeded Franklin Heights in the second round Feb. 26.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave