Barnegat’s Madison Kubicz fires a strike during the Bengals’ 3-0 win over Lakewood on Feb. 26. (Photo by David Biggy)
The pressure was on, at least in his mind. Matt Xiques stepped onto the approach of Lane 9 at Ocean Lanes, knowing he had to throw not just one strike, but two if he wanted to have a shot at qualifying for the Shore Conference Tournament.
“I was shaking,” said the Barnegat High School senior after playing in the final regular-season match of his career on Feb. 26. “As a senior, I wanted to be able to say I made the Shore Conference Tournament and went out with a bang.”
Following a strike in the ninth, Xiques was staring at a possible 236 going to the 10th as he sought to secure the third-highest average within the Shore Conference South B division with Lacey’s Jarod Donovan on the slate to complete his regular season on Saturday. To stay above Donovan’s 203 average – heading into the day, Xiques’ average was 203.12 – the Bengals’ anchorman said he needed a 235 in the third game after recording a 205 and 180 in the first two games of the day.
Xiques’ first ball in the 10th crushed the 1-3 pocket for a strike. He delivered an equally powerful 1-3 ball on his second shot, sending all the pins crashing into the pit and prompting him to let out a fiery shout. In need of at least nine pins to secure a 235 on his last ball, his shot cleared most of them, leaving just the 10-pin standing at the corner. The sigh of relief was audible above the background noise of the house.
Barnegat anchorman Matt Xiques delivers a strike ball during the Bengals’ 3-0 victory against Lakewood on Feb. 26. (Photo by David Biggy)
“I didn’t have a great second game, but I had one left, and I had to get through it,” said Xiques, who led the Bengals to a 3-0 win over Lakewood with a 620 series. “That was a grind, and it was crazy at the end, but I did it.”
Joe Spagnola – otherwise known as the division’s best bowler with an average of 221.37 heading into the final contest – had a rough day with games of 161, 186 and 195 for a 542 series, but Barnegat easily had the match in hand against the Piners, who had won just once this season. Matt Hwang hammered down scores of 180, 187 and 154 for a 521 series, while Mason Rodriguez tallied a 142 in the first game on the way to a 407 series.
Earlier in the week, the Bengals (10-20) managed a 2-1 victory over Lakewood. Spagnola carried the squad with a 697 series after firing games of 247, 248 and 202. Xiques rolled a 248 in the first game, followed by a 161, but didn’t bowl the third. Hwang finished with a 483 series after tossing a high of 177 in the third game. Josh Javines managed a 195 in the first game.
“This season was a little harder than our normal three-month season,” said Xiques, who transferred from Toms River South prior to his junior season. “We didn’t have a lot of time and we had a bunch of first-time guys on the varsity roster, so it took some time for us to get our stride. But these last two seasons have been a blast. I wouldn’t trade these guys for the world. They just made every season fun, especially on the bus rides home. Everything was just a blast. I really enjoyed it.”
As for the girls’ squad, the Bengals capped a 17-13 season with a 2-1 victory over Lakewood, struggling in the first game and losing by six pins before scoring 741-614 and 836-668 wins during the last two games of the regular season.
“Bowling with a mask definitely is not ideal, but we did what we had to do to play, and I’m really proud of how we did this season,” said junior anchor Madison Kubicz, who rolled a 173 in the first game and a 174 in the second to record a 484 series. “We really proved ourselves, especially for being so young. We have a freshman and a couple of sophomores in our starting five, and we did some good things this season.”
After easily beating the Piners 3-0 earlier in the week, the Bengals couldn’t find their marks in the first contest on Feb. 26, the only one coming close to her average, besides Kubicz, being Alexis Sugden with a 138. But in the second, things started to come together, as Sugden led the way with a 170, while Camryn White delivered a 157 and Rebecca Bykow – the only senior in the program, playing in her first varsity game of the season – contributed a 150.
In the third game, Barnegat dropped the hammer, with White smashing 190 pins to end up with a 488 series, while Sugden rolled a 169 to finish at 477, Bykow capped her bowling career with a 153, and Tara Charland mustered a 150.
On Feb. 24, White led the charge with a 495 series after firing games of 160, 151 and 184, while Kubicz tallied a 461 series following second and third games of 157 and 177, respectively, and Charland cruised to a 480 series with games of 157, 177 and 146. Sugden managed a 425 series by tossing games of 142, 137 and 146. Summer Burkle topped out at 123 in the first game.
“Our whole starting five will be back next season, so I’m all ready for my senior season,” Kubicz said with a laugh. “We’ll have the whole summer to practice and get better, and we’ll be coming back with fresh mindsets. I believe we’re going to be really good next year. I wish it would start tomorrow.”
Southern Squads Finish
With Two Wins
While neither had a shot to win the Shore Conference South A division, both the Southern Regional boys and girls bowling teams scored a pair of victories to end the regular season last week.
On Feb. 27, the boys knocked off Toms River East, 3-0, carding 879-833, 920-816 and 902-767 wins to finish in second place at 21-9. Earlier in the week, the Rams swept the Raiders with 950-778, 982-827 and 1,040-914 scores.
During the final match, Nick Marano posted 173, 161 and 238 games for a 572 series, while Killian Horne recorded games of 161, 202 and 201 for a 564 series, and Cole Johansen helped lead the charge with a 536 series following games of 195, 174 and 167. Andrew Christensen finished with a 516 series after rolling games of 171, 212 and 201, and Collin Wilkinson ended with a 513 series following games of 179, 171 and 163.
To start the week, Horne delivered a mammoth 712 series by firing games of 223, 258 and 231, while Johansen buried 617 pins with games of 189, 204 and 224, and Wilkinson delivered a 554 series after games of 213, 172 and 169. Marano tossed a high of 180 in both the first and third games, and Christensen tossed games of 231 and 236 during the second and third games. Horne’s series ended up as the second-highest scratch series in the division for the season.
As for the girls, Southern cruised past Toms River East with wins of 669-424, 638-437 and 709-392 on Feb. 27. Kaitlyn Gonsalves rolled games of 128, 149 and 158 to finish with a 435 series, while Jordan Rizzo managed a 148 and 171 in the first and third games to complete a 424 series, and Olivia Wilbert registered a 151 in the first game. Miranda Pielhau scored a 147 in the second game, and Stephanie Giberson banged down 158 pins in the third game.
Earlier in the week, the Rams (13-17) used 730-675, 838-673 and 786-683 victories to beat the Raiders, as Rizzo led the charge with games of 157, 186 and 187 for a 530 series. Wilbert delivered a 494 series with games of 148, 177 and 169, while Kyla Bender tallied a 464 series with games of 143, 175 and 146, and Gonsalves and Giberson each recorded identical 433 series – Gonsalves’ high game being a 156 and Giberson’s being a 154.
— David Biggy
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