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HCHS bowling teams are back to back State Champions

Nine-time defending State Champion Hardin County Lady Tiger Bowling Team

It was not without some tense and discouraging moments for both teams but the end result was the same as it was in 2021 as the Hardin County High School Tiger and Lady Tiger bowling teams won the TSSAA Boys and Girls Team Championships Friday, January 21 in Smyrna. Each team needed some last second heroics to go on and win the tournaments but they got just enough when they needed it to bring home the big trophies.
The Team Tournaments got under way Thursday, January 20 with Quarterfinal action as the Semifinals and Finals followed Friday morning and culminated in the afternoon.
Lady Tigers 22 White House 1 (Quarterfinal)
HC faced rival White House in the quarterfinals and took care of business to advance to the semifinals. HC won seven of eight points in the six on six bowling and led 7-1 heading to the Baker rounds that had been implemented this season.
Arianna Heath rolled high score in round one with a 234 with Isabella Woodard posting a 205 game. Emily King was five pins back at 200 as Millie Bromley brought in a 197. Emily Edwards finished with a 191 effort while Macy Bromley added a 144.
Hardin County swept every Baker point to roll to the lopsided opening round win and took total pin count 2,084-1,780. Reserves Ava Alexander, Kaylie Mitchell, Ella Stricklin, Gracie Franks and Caroline King contributed a bunch to the Baker game wins in Baker games three through five.
Tigers 16 Dobyns Bennett 7 (Quarterfinal)
The Big Maroon Tigers faced a very tough foe in the Opening Round and pulled out a hard-fought victory. HC split the six on six matches but topped Dobyns Bennett in pins to grab a 5-3 lead heading to the Baker matches.
Eli Northcutt rolled high game for the Tigers with his 225 score. Michael Spears worked hard for a 187 game with Chandler Causey one pin back at 186. Ben Howard brought in a 181 while Wesson Heath put up a 174 as Jacob Smith and Peyton Napper combined for a 154.
Hardin County won the first three Baker games to pull ahead and held on as Dobyns Bennett took the final two as Napper and Mathew Spears got some lane time in the Baker action. HC topped their opponent 2,119-1,986.
Apparently Dobyns Bennett did not take kindly to losing since they sported the same 15-0 mark the Tigers did coming into the match. They also did not like the fact that Hardin County brings a lot of fans to the State Tournament and those fans are vocal in the support of their heroes. Some harsh words were reportedly said by some Dobyns Bennett folks but cooler heads prevailed and the problem no longer existed after the match ended as they would no longer have to hear the cheering while heading home.
Lady Tigers 21 Rhea County 2 (Semifinal)
A very cold Friday morning saw the Lady Tigers taking on an overmatched Rhea County squad. HCHS swept all eight points in six on six matches and never looked back as they picked up a comfortable victory.
Millie Bromley claimed the top spot in round one with her 199 with Arianna Heath next at 187. Emily Edwards was one pin back at 186 with Macy Bromley posting a 163. Emily King put up a 161 as Isabella Woodard came in with a 155.
HC won the first three Baker games by wide margins to clinch the match win. Ava Alexander, Ella Stricklin, Kaylie Mitchell, Gracie Franks, Caroline King, Hannah Screws, Eveye Mitchell, Kaylie Mitchell, Caroline King, Elizabeth Greenhill, Alexis Stuart, Charlize Shelton, Aubrey Garton and Addison Alcott all got in on lots of state tournament Baker action as Rhea County squeaked out a win in Baker match four before HCHS won the final Baker. The Lady Tigers took total pin count by a margin of 1,900-1,379 to advance to the Finals for the incredible 16th consecutive year.
Tigers 15 Bartlett 8 (Semifinal)
Standing in the way of the Tigers advancing to the Finals was their second straight formidable opponent and one they were quite familiar with in the Bartlett Panthers. Bowlers on both teams bowl in travel bowling and tournament bowling and have a very cordial relationship. The teams had also faced off earlier in the season with Hardin County picking up the win.
The evenly matched competition saw Bartlett win four of the six individual tenpin matches but the teams were knotted 4-4 as HC actually won pin count by seven pins. Part of the reason Hardin County was able to do so was a huge 272 game from Wesson Heath to claim high game honors in round one. Chandler Causey was next with a 216 game as he won his match by 40 pins to help the Tigers come out of the round tied. Eli Northcutt rolled a 185 with Michael Spears bringing in a 175 effort. Ben Howard and Jacob Smith combined for a 168 as Peyton Napper and Caleb Brown teamed up for a 154.
HC had identical 203 scores in the first two Baker games to win them both. The third Baker match took a lot out of the Panthers as they rolled a very nice Baker score of 235 but the Big Maroon Tigers crushed them with a huge score of 264 to increase their lead as Michael Spears, Chandler Causey, Jacob Smith, Eli Northcutt and Wesson Heath showed up and showed out. Bartlett won the final two Baker games and get close in pin count but Wesson Heath struck out in the 10th frame in the final Baker game to put the Tiger lead out of reach. The Tigers won Baker pin count by 39 pins and total match pin count by only 46 total pins to win and advance to their impressive sixth consecutive State Final.
Lady Tigers 13 Creek Wood 10 (State Final)
Looking for their NINTH straight State Championship vs the Lady Red Hawks, Hardin County started the six on six tenpin bowling in dominating fashion as they swept all six matches to take an 8-0 lead in what many observers thought might lead to another comfortable win.
Emily King rolled a nice 227 to lead the Lady Tigers in round one with Millie Bromley three pins back at 224. Arianna Heath finished with a 182 effort as Isabella Woodard came in with a 177. Emily Edwards posted a 172 as Macy Bromley was two pins back at 170. HC led by 170 pins after the individual round but the Baker matches were getting ready to make things very interesting.
Both teams bowled respectable scores in Baker game one as Creek Wood won by a single pin at 201-200. That game seemed to take away some of the Lady Tiger mojo as they bowled uncharacteristically low scores of 159 and 158 to lose games two and three. Creek Wood also managed to whittle 103 pins off of the Lady Tiger pin lead. HC had a lead in Baker game four as they moved into the final three or four frames of the game but a Lady Tiger bowled out of turn and Coach Jennifer Channell called the penalty on herself and her team which resulted in a zero in both frames. Creek Wood ended up winning the game by five pins to take some more pins off of the Hardin County pin lead.
As it became apparent that the match was coming down to the final Baker match with the State Title on the line many observers wondered if Lady Tiger Coach Jennifer Channell could get her team to put the mistake behind them and win the final Baker game and with it the State Championship. Coach Channell sent out Millie and Macy Bromley, Ava Alexander, Arianna Heath and Gracie Franks in the anchor position to attempt the difficult task. Bowlers from both teams bowled their hearts out and struggled some with the pressure. The game was nip and tuck and only a few pins separated them as the final frames came around. With a tremendous amount of pressure on her young shoulders, Junior Gracie Franks rolled a huge, game, match and state title winning strike in the 10th frame to finally put the Lady Tiger lead out of reach. The Lady Tiger bowling area was soon filled with hugs, tears and big smiles as the team realized what it had accomplished.
Creek Wood won Baker pin count by 70 pins but fell short in total pins in the match to Hardin County by 100 at 2,006-1,906.
Record: 18-0
The absolutely mind-boggling run by the Lady Tiger pin-seekers has now reached NINE State Championships in a row. They have 13 total State Titles to go along with four Runner-Up finishes.
“I’m really proud of how hard everyone worked during the season and how much they practiced,” said Lady Tiger Coach Jennifer Channell. “I truly appreciate all of the leadership our Seniors showed this year, I’m going to miss all of them: Arianna Heath, Caroline King, Kaylie Mitchell and Ella Stricklin.
“We knew heading into the tournament that Creek Wood was probably going to be our toughest competition. I was very proud of the way the girls jumped out to a big lead in the six on six. Then after we started struggling some in Bakers they battled their way back to win the fifth Baker game and clinch the match. It came down to the last frame of the last game before Gracie Franks rolled a big strike in the 10th frame to clinch it.
“I want to thank everyone for all of their support from the community, the school administration, and especially all of our parents. As I drove back to Savannah by myself from Smyrna I had a lot of time to think and I got a little emotional and very thankful. When we started this thing 21 years ago we had to beg to get six or seven people to come out and bowl, but look where we are now. This has been an amazing journey for our program. It has also created a lot of great opportunities for a lot of kids. That makes me very happy, proud and so thankful.”
Tigers 14 Smyrna Bulldogs 9 (State Final)
The Big Maroon Tigers were tasked with winning their third straight match over a very tough opponent as they faced Smyrna, the same team they had faced in multiple state finals over the past several seasons. Furthermore, Smyrna has the big advantage of getting to bowl in the State Tournament each and every year on their home lanes.
Hardin County came out as hot as a firecracker as they won five of the six individual tenpin matches and with the pin count bonus led 7-1 heading to the Baker round.
Michael Spears did a great job as the first bowler on the list as he rolled multiple consecutive strikes for a huge 256 game to knock off the top bowler from Smyrna by a margin of 256-243 and put a chink in the Bulldogs armor. Jacob Smith was next with his 237 score with Ben Howard five pins back at 232. Wesson Heath posted a 220 effort with Eli Northcutt helping out with a 197 and Chandler Causey adding a 180. Hardin County posted an incredible score of 1,322 to top Smyrna in tenpin pin count by 197 pins.
The Tigers knew that Smyrna was a very good Baker team and that the match was far from over. The Bulldogs began their come back with a win in Baker game one as both teams bowled nice Baker scores. Reserve C.J. Robinson came in as a replacement in Baker game two and performed well but it was not enough as Smyrna won Baker Game two. Chandler Causey got back on to the lanes in game three and both squads again bowled nice Baker scores but Smyrna took their third straight Baker game to get things considerably tighter.
The fourth Baker game went back and forth but Smyrna took the lead late and appeared to be in position to win the game. A huge open frame in the 10th opened the door and Hardin County stepped through it and won the fourth game 182-178 to deal a blow to the hopes of Smyrna. The Tigers appeared much more relaxed in Baker game five as they bowled their best Baker game and pulled away to win the game 208-193 and clinch the game, match and State Title. The Tigers began to congratulate one another and celebrated with handshakes, hugs, high-fives and even a few tears. The Lady Tigers also made their way down to the area and celebrated with their teammates and coaches. Smyrna topped HC in Baker pin count 990-933 but fell in total match pin count 2,255-2,115.
Record: 18-0
The Tigers continued their decade of dominance as they reached their sixth consecutive State Final and won their Fourth State Championship during that time. Their win also marked the second time in six season that the Hardin County bowling teams go back-to-back.
“Well, the new Baker format was a lot to get used to this year,” said Tiger Coach David Channell. “There is so much emphasis placed on the Baker matches, Jennifer and I talked to our teams about how you could be a dominant team but lose the Bakers and lose the match because we had seen it happen in some college matches. Then that very thing almost came true in the state tournament with both of our squads.
“We had a great run to the Boys State Title as we picked up wins over the three toughest opponents we faced all season. Dobyns Bennett is a young team but they have been Bakers since they were 12 year olds bowling in USA bowling events. Bartlett always gives a good match and our match during Fall Bash was very close as was our match in the state tourney. I thought we bowled our best six on six match against Smyrna but then we forgot how to bowl Bakers for a while. Fortunately we were able to squeak out a win in game four to pretty much seal the title. We relaxed in game five and bowled like we should have been and it made the final score not appear to be as close as it really was.
“Overall for the state tournament we had one of the best team efforts ever. We had several individuals really step up to bring home the title. Wesson Heath put us on his back and carried us with a huge individual game along with some huge moments in Bakers to lead us to the win over Bartlett. Eli Northcutt anchored us in Bakers vs Dobyns Bennett and struck out in the 10th frame a couple of times to put them away. Michael Spears bowled a huge 256 game that carried a lot of weight in our win over Smyrna.
“As always the key to winning at State was making spares. We had some guys that had not bowled as much this year that really excelled on the Sports Shot at Smyrna Bowling Center. Jacob Smith bowled really, really well in the finals vs Smyrna. Senior C.J. Robinson came in as a reserve and showed a lot of poise and confidence and helped us get through when we were struggling a bit in the final match. He is our only Senior we will lose to graduation and we are really going to miss him and his leadership.
“Thank you to Principal Wes Wilkerson, Athletic Director Matthew Smith and several other HCHS staff members for coming up to support our teams on Friday at State. We also want to thank everyone that came out and welcomed our State Champions back to Savannah Friday evening. We appreciate all of the businesses that have supported us and the great support from the community. It was another great season for Hardin County High School Bowling, as always the future continues to look bright for our programs.”

Two-time defending State Champion Hardin County Tiger Bowling Team

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