The W.F. West Bearcats completed their impressive undefeated run to win the 2023 Washington State 1A/2A State Championship at Bowlero Lanes in Tukwila last weekend.
The Bearcats never trailed in the tournament, but that does not mean that they breezed through the tournament as many believed they would. The grueling two-day event consisted of six games on day one and fourteen Baker games on day two.
For the Bearcats and their competition, it was a drama-filled nail-biter from the first ball of the tournament to the final 10th frame of the 14th Baker game.
"All year our school, student body and our amazing community would tell me that your team is going to cruise through the state tournament," head coach Don Bunker said. "We knew how tough this year would be and how good our competition was this season. Our district is the toughest in the state at any classification. Our girls worked like they were the underdogs all season and did not take anything for granted. There is a lot of pressure when you are favored to win from the first day of the season and our coaching staff was really proud of our entire team's work ethic and teamwork."
W.F. West went up against a familiar rival in powerhouse Columbia River and a young R.A. Long team that was ready to win now. The Bearcats were crowned the team champions, Columbia River came in second by 15 pins and R.A. Long finished third. Those three teams would have finished first, second and third in any classification, outscoring both the 3A and 4A state champions this season.
"It just goes to show how competitive and strong our district is,” Bunker said. “Fort Vancouver and Tumwater High Schools are two of the top teams in the state and they did not make it out of districts.”
On day one the Bearcats averaged 171 as a team for 30 games, knocking down 5132 pins which resulted in a small lead heading into day two. R.A. Long ended the day with 5061 total pins and Columbia River finished the first day with 5036 total pins. Defending individual state champion Piper Chalmers defended her title by averaging 201 for six games.
"The scores were down for everyone at Bowler,” Bunker said. “It is a nice bowling alley and they put down a great shot, but their pins desperately needed to be replaced, which resulted in lower scores across all classifications. Everyone had to deal with the same conditions so it really came down to converting your spares in this tournament."
With a miniscule 71-pin lead heading into day two, the Bearcats came head-to-head with second-place R.A. Long. The ‘Cats came out hot early with all five Bearcats striking in their first five chances ending the game with an impressive 237.
"We could not have asked for a better start especially going up against a talented young team like R.A. Long," Bunker said. "R.A. Long will have everyone coming back next year and will have a target on their back like we have had the last few years. They have the potential to be one of the most talented teams in the state for the next couple of years."
As the Baker games continued, the Bearcats, Columbia River and R.A. Long persisted to battle. In game ten Columbia River went off with an incredible 268-game pulling them within a few pins of the Bearcats. The drama continued going into the final Baker game. The Bearcats, having a 16-pin lead, could win the tournament by beating Columbia River in the final game.
Senior Savannah Hawkins brought the team together for a pep talk. Savannah told the girls to relax and we just needed to bowl for each other and take care of our individual frames. The Bearcats responded and marked in every single frame except one. In the fifth frame an unfortunate split by the team's anchor Piper Chalmers let Columbia River back in the match.
"Piper has come through for us so many times throughout her career and our team was determined to pick her up and give her a chance to put Columbia River away in the 10th," Bunker said.
Both teams were unrelenting dueling back and forth with several good shots. Finally, in the ninth frame Clara Bunker delivered a huge strike for the Bearcats. It was then up to back-to-back individual state champion Piper Chalmers who came through for the Bearcats with a spare and a strike in the 10th.
Columbia River's anchor needed to double in the 10th and her first ball came in light, leaving an 8-count giving the Bearcats the championship.
"It was an incredible matchup with great sportsmanship on both sides," Bunker said.
Final individual results: W.F. West's Piper Chalmers (first-place) with 1206 total pins, Centralia's Bailee Spriggs (fourth-place) with 1127 total pins, Black Hills' Zoey Theophilus (seventh-place) with 1101 total pins, and W.F. West's Savannah Hawkins (13th-place) with 1033 pins.
"Our coaching staff and bowlers would like to thank our amazing athletic department, AD Jeff Johnson, Darlene Weeks, the Bearcat Booster Club, Fairway Lanes, Mill Town Lanes, Mean Gene's Pro Shop and Rick Lyons for their generous support,” Bunker said. “Without their dedication to our program our success would not have been possible."