Local teams gear up for state bowling finals

The 2014 Louisiana High School Athletic Association state bowling championships will be held Saturday at All-Star Lanes in Baton Rouge. (Photo by Jim Cenac/Correspondent)

It has been a long journey all season for three local high school bowling teams.

But the road to a state championship ends on Saturday.

Vandebilt Catholic's boys and girls bowling teams and Ellender High's girls squad have reached their final destination — the 2014 Louisiana High School Athletic Association state bowling championships. It will be held at All-Star Lanes in Baton Rouge on Saturday.

In the girls bracket, No. 6-seeded Vandebilt will face No. 5 St. Scholastica in the state semifinals, while No. 8 Ellender will play No. 2 Albany in the other state semifinal showdown. Both semifinal games will start at 11 a.m. Saturday.

The winners will advance to the girls state bowling finals at 1 p.m. Saturday.

In the boys bracket, No. 1 Vandebilt will challenge No. 3 Jesuit in the boys state semifinal at 11 a.m. The winner will advance to play the No. 1 Brother Martin/No. 2 Barbe winner in the boys state bowling finals at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Vandebilt is the only local boys team to make the state tournament.

Vandebilt coach Steve Theriot said it is great for the local bowling community to have three teams competing for a championship on the final day of the season.

"It's not just a big thing for the Vandebilt community, but the entire Houma community," Theriot said. "This is the first time that we've had two Houma teams make it to the state finals. I would love to see us have to bowl against Ellender in (the girls) state finals."

It is also a major accomplishment for Ellender. The Lady Patriots bowling team has competed for the last four years, but this is the first time they have advanced this far.

"I'm just real excited," Ellender coach Ann Labat said. "The girls have worked so hard in the last four years. I have great kids on the team. Our parents have been wonderful supporters. Their support has been helping us raise funds. It's all family, and that's been the most beautiful thing about this whole thing. I'm really proud of this group. How much farther we go? I don't know, but they are representing themselves, their families and Ellender High School with pride."

To advance to the state finals tournament, both Ellender and Vandebilt's girls teams had to overcome a tough field at the bi-regional meet held in Lake Charles on March 31.

The Lady Terriers, who are the defending state girls bowling champions, were the No. 6-seed at the bi-regional meet. They had wins over No. 3 St. Louis (19.5 to 7.5) and No. 2 Morgan City (18-9) to advance to the state tournament.

After winning it all last year, Theriot said Vandebilt's girls team (13-2 overall) have been motivated all season to repeat their state title this season.

"The girls just have to do the same thing they did last year," Theriot said. "One thing that we talked about is every pin counts. It was crucial last year. That's what we've been doing all year, and that's what we will continue to do in the state championship."

Also at the bi-regional girls tournament, No. 8 Ellender used victories over No. 9 Teurlings Catholic (14-13), No. 1 Airline (14-13) and No. 5 Lafayette (17-10) to punch its ticket to the state tournament.

Labat said it was an amazing accomplishment because Ellender (11-4 overall) had to win three straight matches in one day just to make it.

"I'm just lost for words how well these girls have been working," Labat said. "I hope we are peeking at the right time. It seems like we came on so strong with those nine games that we bowled in one day. I kept waiting for them to break down, but they just kept coming back. I was really proud of them. They kept scrapping for every little pin they could get."

Whenever they got down or tired, Labat said the players on the team just kept motivating each other. They will have to keep that same mindset in order to win it all on Saturday.

"It's going to take everybody bowling their best game," Labat said. "Even if they are not on their best game, if they can stay close enough to the person they are bowling against, somebody else might help pick them up. That's what I've pushed for all year long. Every pin counts. Every pin is important. If you can't beat them, then stay as close as you can to them."

On the boys side, Vandebilt (15-0 overall) was the top-seed at bi-regionals and coasted to victories over No. 9 Morgan City (24-3) and No. 5 Terrebonne (18-9) to make it to the state finals.

The Terriers are gunning for their first-ever state championship trophy. If they want to do it, they'll have to get past a two-loss Jesuit team in the semifinals. They will then have to face either Brother Martin or Barbe — who are both undefeated this season — in the finals to win it all.

"The boys want to do the same thing the girls did last year — win a championship," Theriot said. "It's a tough competition there, but our boys and girls teams have been up for it all year long. The girls only have two losses all year long, and the boys haven't had any. They are not planning to lose anymore."

While Ellender and Vandebilt's bowling teams go for state team titles, there will be several local bowlers competing for boys and girls state bowling singles championships.

Marlon Hinton of H.L. Bourgeois and Trey Authement of Terrebonne will compete in boys singles, while Jeanette Besson of H.L. Bourgeois will play in the girls singles.