Burrell bowlers turn attention to postseason after strong regular season

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Sunday, February 7, 2021 | 5:21 PM


The top boys and girls bowlers in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Bowling League compete at Wildlife Lanes in Lower Burrell.

Freeport’s Mark Livingston is at the top of the heap on the boys side, and Burrell junior Lydia Flanagan is tearing it up on the girls side with a league-best 224 average through the end of her 30-game regular season.

Flanagan left no doubt last Monday against Penn Hills when she rolled season-bests for a series (784) and a game (289). She added games of 258 and 237.

“I really felt great through that entire series,” she said. “I didn’t think I was going to top my (previous best) 778 (series). I was so happy and excited for that.”

She started her 289 game with a spare and then struck 10 in a row before throwing a nine with her final roll.

“Even though I knew I wasn’t going to get a 300 game, I knew I was going to have a really good score,” she said. “If I would’ve started with a strike, I would’ve been way more nervous at the end. The spare to start helped me relax as I went through the rest of the game.”

Two days later, in a rematch with Penn Hills, Flanagan rolled her second 279 game of the season. She is looking forward to the WPIBL individual championships Feb. 24-25.

Flanagan said a move from a 14-pound ball to a 15-pounder and tips from coach Richie Grilli have helped improve her game. She averaged 208 last year.

“I worked through some little things at first, but it didn’t take long for me to get more comfortable,” she said. “I’ve had to make my feet move faster and get the ball into my swing. I did have to put tape on my thumb for a little better ball control.”

Last year, Flanagan finished first in the WPIBL singles qualifying round with a 617 series and 232 high game. She then advanced to the semifinals of the stepladder playoff bracket.

At the Western Regional, Flanagan finished third in the qualifying round and secured one of the 12 berths to states. The state tournament, however, was canceled in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

The boys bowlers who achieve an average of 170 or better and the girls bowlers who reach a 140 average or better, with at least 21 of 30 games bowled, will gain entry to the WPIBL singles championships.

Flanagan will represent Burrell along with freshman Leah McCandless (178 average), sophomore Victoria Schueler (153) and junior Jordan Cessna (147).

The Bucs, with an 8-2 record, finished second in the East section to undefeated Plum. They concluded the regular season with a lineup of Flanagan, McCandless, Schueler, Cessna and junior Morgan Miller.

“They’ve been practicing really hard, and it’s shown in matches,” Grilli said.

The top two teams from each boys and girls section qualify for the WPIBL team tournaments Feb. 17-18.

Burrell finished fourth at WPIBLs and eighth at regionals last year, missing a berth to states by two places. The Bucs captured the 2019 WPIBL team title and finished runner-up to Butler in 2018.

The Burrell boys finished the regular season 6-4 overall, but Gateway and Plum came away with the two playoff berths from the section.

The focus now turns to WPIBL singles for junior Ryan Neville, who easily secured a berth with a section-leading average of 201. He owns season highs of a 264 game and a 715 series.

“They key for me is to be consistent, knowing my line and knowing how my ball is going to react,” said Neville, who shot a 680 series (237-243-200) against Penn Hills on Feb. 1. “We’ve had our ups and downs as a team this year, but the main thing is we’ve had fun each time. That’s a really important thing. We’ve also seen a lot of improvement from everyone.”

Cody Sims, the lone senior on either Burrell squad, bowled in high school for the first time this season, and he finished second on the boys team with a 165 average.

“This has been a really fun season,” Sims said. “I wish I would’ve done this in previous years, too. I’ve loved being a part of the team with everyone here. I also wish I could be bowling a little better, and I know I can. But I know I wouldn’t be where I am without Ryan, the coaches and others helping me out.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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