Penn Hills bowlers look ahead to regionals after stumble at WPIBL tournament

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Friday, February 21, 2020 | 2:25 PM


The Penn Hills bowlers weren’t pleased with their most recent performance at the WPIBL team championships.

However, after the boys and girls teams secured the automatic bid by winning the East Section during the regular season, Penn Hills will look to rebound at the Western Regional tournament March 7.

At the WPIBL team championships, the boys team finished eighth out of 18 teams with a three-game total of 2,442 pins.

Central Catholic won the boys title after defeating Hempfield in the best-of-three Baker finals at Nesbit’s Lanes in Plum on Feb. 12.

“We were strong the third game and pretty strong in the first game. The middle game we caught a really bad pair lane,” boys coach Mark Diehm said. “It was demoralizing, and I didn’t know how to coach at that point. We struggled to bowl a 700 with five guys, which isn’t going to win us any tournaments.”

Senior Noah Houghtelin led the Indians with a three-game score of 529, while sophomore Josh Garland bowled a 526. Junior Ethan Grainy, who had the top average in the East section this season, bowled a 509, while senior AJ Collins finished with a 504. Senior Ryland Amato added a 374 for the Indians.

“We were going into it with zero pressure. It would’ve been nice to finish top five or top three. At the same time, I didn’t want them to have any nerves,” Diehm said. “I was hoping with me saying it was basically a warmup, we were going to see the strong teams and if we could compete.”

The girls team also finished eighth with a three-game total of 2,330 pins.

Greensburg Salem won the girls title after defeating Shaler in the finals at Princess Lanes on Feb. 13.

Junior Ashley Hepler led the Indians with a 589 series, while junior Taylor Parco bowled a 481. Junior Irlynn Richardson had the third-best score with a 467 and senior Audrey Grainy bowled a 451. Senior Lucy Urbansky had a 342 as the fifth bowler.

The boys team will return to the regional tournament for the first time since 2015, which is also the last time Penn Hills had both the boys and girls teams participate in the Western Regional.

“None of my kids have made it to regionals. They know it’s a whole new dynamic. It’s tense and very intense. I’m going tell them what I’ve told them all season,” Diehm said. “I want them to play their game. We can’t have any negativity because everyone is going to feed off of that. Hopefully, they can control their emotions and their nerves and do what they do best.”

The boys team finished with a perfect 10-0 regular-season record, which included a close win over Plum. The perfect season is a feat that Diehm believes is a first for the boys team since he has been the coach for over a decade.

“They put in a lot of time and effort into the season, and I honestly couldn’t be any happier, more so for them,” Diehm said.

The girls team finished with a 8-2 record during the regular season.

Both teams will look to finish in the top six in order to advance to the Pennsylvania team championships March 14. The girls team will look to make it back-to-back trips to state tournament.

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