Ishpeming-Negaunee wins Upper Peninsula Bowling Conference girls team finals

Steve Brownlee

In all the hoopla surrounding the high school state tournament regionals and finals, I forgot about part of the Upper Peninsula Bowling Conference’s end-of-season tournaments.

That was the team events held at the Bowl-A-Rama in Escanaba on Feb. 17.

Let’s right that wrong by congratulating Ishpeming-Negaunee as the girls champions by a relatively comfortable margin on Feb. 17.

A report I received here at The Mining Journal a few days after the event by Avery Bundgaard of the Escanaba Daily Press described the bowling center as being jam-packed with 22 teams, including multiple boys teams from our area taking part.

It’s one of the neat things the UPBC has been able to do for awhile — allow more than one team from a school so those with a really good turnout during tryouts can retain everybody.

“It’s always a good time,” Eskymos coach Rick Neumann told Bundgaard about the team finals. “It can be a little stressful but we enjoy it.”

Not only did the I-N girls win their title by 86 pins over host Esky, 3,457 to 3,371, but Westwood finished runner-up to Iron Mountain on the boys side, with Marquette third and I-N fourth.

The I-N girls taking part that day were Kassidy Pirkola, Caitlyn Lee, Megan Wilkins, Carin Britton, Mackenzie Ryan and Alissa Johnson, according to what coach Steve Windahl told me a few weeks ago.

These “Hema-miners,” if I can get away with combining the two schools’ nicknames (not likely, though maybe just this once), also tied for first place both with their 7-2 records and 275 total points earned in matches during the regular season.

“It’s nice because it was a battle with Escanaba and I knew it was going to come down between those two teams,” Windahl told Bundgaard about the finals. “It was a fight right down to the end and they pulled it out.”

I-N got off to a fast start in the six-game Baker-style block, where teammates alternate frames to come up with a single-game score.

I-N shot a 208 game right out the gate, and even though they struggled for three games after that, finished 215-194 to take a one-pin lead over Esky entering the second phase. Everyone else was at least 150 pins behind at that point.

Then in regular bowling where everyone bowls their own games, I-N again got off to a fast start, shooting 864 to just 771 for Esky, then cruised to games of 827 and 772 to win it all.

Marquette was fourth in the girls tourney with 2,919, just 57 pins behind third-place Iron Mountain.

In the boys event, Marquette built a more than 100-pin lead in Baker, but IM found its groove in regular bowling, opening with the only “regular” game all day over 900 — a huge 1,131, or 226 average for their five bowlers.

That allowed the Mountaineers to post 3,751, 220 pins ahead of Westwood’s 3,531. Marquette came in at 3,512 and I-N at 3,390.

Westwood shot consistent regular games of 832, 861 and 885, MSHS had 855, 836 and 737, while I-N checked in with 844, 746 and 886.

A second Marquette team was ninth with 2,924, Westwood 2 was 12th with 2,549 and I-N 2 was 13th with 2,494.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.