LHSAA Bowling State Tournament Begins Wednesday

by Mike Strom // GeauxPreps.com Contributor

Brother Martin bowling, as one might expect from a seven-time state champion, does not lack for confidence.

But the swag that the Crusaders carry into the team portion of the LHSAA Ochsner State Bowling Tournament being staged Wednesday and Thursday at Premier Lanes in Gonzales is tempered by a respectful attention to detail reflective of a five-time reigning state champion.

“We have the best scoring average in the state, so if we perform the way we’re capable, we should win,’’ Brother Martin coach Bruce Himbert, in his 15th season of directing the program, said. “We have some really good kids who listen well. They’re just like everybody else. They want to win just as much as everybody else.’’

Sixth-seeded Brother Martin, 13-1 this season, faces No. 7 Rummel, 12-2, in a Division I semifinals scheduled to roll at 11:45 a.m. Thursday at Premier. The winner then faces the winner between No. 16 Slidell and No. 5 Denham Springs in Thursday’s 3:45 p.m. finals.

Jacob Vangilder (back center) of Brother Martin can become the first LHSAA bowler to be a member of four consecutive state championship teams.
Photo courtesy of Brother Martin.

The Crusaders and Raiders face off in a rematch from the regular season won, 15-12, by Brother Martin in which the victors proved to be 51 total pins better than Rummel after ending the match portion of their competition tied at 12. Those 51 pins supplied the Crusaders with the three-point margin of victory.

“The biggest thing about what we do is we try to make spares,’’ Himbert said. “A strike is going to take care of itself. But, if you miss a spare, it is a big thing (leaving an open frame). You can throw a perfect shot and it not be a strike. So the only thing you can control is spares. So you have to hit spares. So that’s what we practice on.’’

Senior Jacob Vangilder leads a group of four returning starters from Brother Martin’s 2023 state champions. As the state tournament’s Most Outstanding Bowler as a sophomore for the 2022 champions, Vangilder has an opportunity to become the first LHSAA bowler to be a member of four consecutive state champions.

Vangilder, with a 219 average, is joined by juniors Sam Vollenweider (205), Beau Bufkin (205) and Peyton Avril (195) as returning starters that have added sophomore Blake Hebert (200) and freshman Tyler Nunez (192) to the lineup. Vangilder earned District 9-5A MVP honors this season while Bufkin and Vollenweider also were first-team All-District selections, with Hebert chosen to the second team.

Brother Martin has won 13 consecutive matches since a season-opening loss to Holy Cross. The Crusaders defeated No. 11 Central Lafourche, 17-10, in the regional round following a first-round bye and then downed No. 14 St. Amant, 17-10, in the quarterfinals.

The Crusaders program’s seven state titles are from 2023, 2022, 2021, 2019, 2018, 2016 and 2015. There were no playoffs or state tournament in 2020 due to the Co-Vid pandemic when Brother Martin finished the regular season 12-0 with what would have been the state’s top seed for the playoffs.

“They all work very hard,’’ Himbert said of his team. “If I can get these kids to execute and throw their spares the way they’re supposed to, we should be OK. You have to keep everybody calm and trying to throw good shots. That’s what I’m concentrating on.’’

Rummel sophomore Blake Caire ranks second among Raiders bowlers with a 205 average.
Photo courtesy of the Rummel Raiders Yearbook Staff.

Rummel, 12-2, is seeking its first state crown since winning consecutive titles in 2013 and 2012 in addition to seeking its first state final appearance since 2019 when the Raiders fell to Brother Martin, 21-6. The Raiders defeated No. 10 Hammond, 20.5-6.5, in the regional round following a first-round bye and then downed No. 2 Jesuit, 22-5, in the quarterfinals.

Freshman newcomer Anthony Linker, with a 209 average, leads the Raiders in scoring while sophomores Blake Caire (205) and Jacob Beatty (2-1) and juniors Devin Shirah (197) and Justin Smith (188) represent four returning starters. They are joined by junior Mason Peschlow (181) and sophomore Drew McDonald (168) in filling out the usual six-person starting lineup.

Linker and Caire were first-team All-District 9-5A selections while Beatty earned second-team recognition for a Raiders squad that defeated Martin 6-2 in the first- and third-round of matches of their regular-season pairing after losing, 8-0, to the Crusaders in the middle round of games

“If we hadn’t lost 8-0 in the second (round of games), it would have been a different story,’’ Rummel coach Michael Cruice, in his fourth season, said. “We lost by 51 pins (total). So it wasn’t like we lost by 20-something points. It was a close match. It was anybody’s match. We’ve got to bowl like we did in the first (round of games). We beat them, 6-2, and it wasn’t a fluke.

“We’ve got to keep up our intensity. If we bring that kind of intensity and bowl like we did, we should win. Now, who will show up? We don’t know. That’s why you play the game. I know (Rummel’s bowlers) want redemption. They’re glad we’re bowling against (Brother Martin). They’re not afraid of them. They’re not scared. They want redemption. I think they are focused and ready.’’

In addition to Brother Martin and Rummel, four other New Orleans-area teams have advanced to the boys and girls semifinals of the team competition that is followed by the singles competition scheduled for Friday at All Star Lanes in Baton Rouge beginning at 11 a.m.

Top-seeded Shaw and No. 4 Patrick Taylor are scheduled to meet in a Division II boys semifinals set for 9:30 a.m. Thursday at Premier Lanes in Gonzales, with the winner advancing to face the winner between No. 2 South Terrebonne and No. 11 Albany in the 1:30 p.m. finals. This is the first season with a second boys division.

Chapelle’s bowling team is undefeated heading into Wednesday’s Division I state semifinals versus Patrick Taylor. Pictured left to right are Mia Bella Harvey, Cassidy Schroder, Mary Dufrene, Taylor Bourdonnay, Isabelle LeBoeuf, Olivia Bares, Alexandra Young, Carolyne Hill, Brooke Chatelain, Elizabeth Hamilton, and Addison Belle.
Photo courtesy of Chapelle High School.

In the girls team competition, No. 4 Chapelle and No. 9 Patrick Taylor meet in a Division I semifinals scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Premier Lanes in Gonzales. The winner advances to face the winner between No. 2 Dutchtown and No. 3 Albany in the 1:30 p.m. finals. Dutchtown is reigning state champion.

Shaw, 14-0, may have the most firepower of any team in the Division I and II boys tournaments other than Brother Martin. The Eagles are seeking their second state title overall and first since 2009 when they defeated Brother Martin in the finals. Shaw’s last trip to the finals was in 2010 when the Eagles lost to Barbe.

Juniors Joshua Collins (217 average) and Jonathan Arena (217) and senior Riley Elwood (212) give the Eagles three bowlers averaging over 200. Arena is the reigning state singles champion while Elwood finished fourth in 2023.

They are joined by junior Zachary Tran (195), freshman Brady Barrilleaux (189) and senior Zachary Richoux (188) in Shaw’s regular starting lineup, with freshman Jonathan Kluttz (174), sophomore Blake Ehret (168), freshman Antoine Tran (160) and junior Robert Calix (147) lending depth.

The Eagles defeated No. 16 St. Thomas More, 24-3, in the regional round following a first-round bye and then downed No. 8 E.D. White, 23-4, in the quarterfinals.

Shaw’s top six bowlers, Collins, Arena, Elwood, Tran, Barrilleaux and Richoux, also all have qualified for the singles competition on Friday in Baton Rouge.

“Our boys are coming in with more experience than last year,’’ Shaw coach Denise Vedros, in her 20th LHSAA season, said. “We really felt like we had a shot to get to the finals last year against Brother Martin (before losing to eventual state runner-up H.L. Bourgeois, 16-11, in the quarterfinals).

“Our boys are more experienced now. They know what they need to fix when something is wrong. They’ve got a strong, emotional passion as well. They are really an excited and passionate group of young men.’’

Shaw defeated Taylor, 19-8, in a March 7 regular-season meeting in which Vedros was impressed by the seemingly over-matched Tigers.

“Our boys have to bowl their game,’’ Vedros said. “They have to do what they do best. They know what they have to do. They have the capabilities. They just have to go out and do it. I know they can compete against the best of the best. They just have to believe in themselves. And they do believe in themselves. Hopefully, they can keep their focus and go get that state championship.’’

Patrick Taylor, with both its boys and girls advancing to the state tournament, carries an 11-1 record into the Division II boys semifinals against Shaw. The Tigers defeated No. 13 French Settlement, 26-1, in the regionals after an opening-round bye and then defeated No. 5 St. Michael the Archangel of Baton Rouge, 21-6, in the quarterfinals.

Senior Jadon Lieu, with a 193 average, leads the Tigers in scoring and is one of five returning starters from a year ago. Newcomer and eighth-grader Peyton Ho (187) ranks second in scoring and is followed by three veterans in sophomore Beckham Liew (185), senior Jayden Ho (176) and Zachary Nguyen (159) in scoring average. Freshmen Logan Knecht (141) and Andrew Ly (130), senior Hayden McDaniels (119), junior Austin Falcone (112) and eighth-grader Gavin Johnson (107) round out the potential list of starters.

Additionally, Jadon Lieu, Taylor’s top scorer, rolled a perfect 300 game in the regular-season matchup versus Shaw.

“This group of boys is a strong group all the way down the roster,’’ Taylor coach Brittany Walls, in her fourth season as boys coach, said. “This group is self-sufficient. They know what to do. They’ve spent a lot of time on their own working and showing the dedication to get to where they’re at.

“The energy when we play Shaw is very exciting. (The boys) all know one another. They bowl against one another in leagues in the off-season. As long as we stay focused and they show up and do what they know how to do, we have a good chance. Because these boys are fully capable.’’

Patrick Taylor’s girls, who also are coached by Walls, face a formidable challenge from undefeated No. 4 seed Chapelle given that the Chipmunks downed the Lady Tigers, 25-2, in a regular-season pairing. The Lady Tigers also are only in their third season of competition, having progressed from 0-12 in 2022 to 4-8 in 2023 to 10-2 this winter to earn a No. 9 seed.

Freshman Addison Tran, with a 173 average, is Taylor’s top girls scorer. Tran is joined by twin sisters, seniors Gabrielle Viviano (151) and Isabelle Viviano (142), freshman newcomer Loren Nguyen (123), junior Catherine McBrayer (115), junior Charity Dicken (106) and senior Victoria Kluttz (106) as top candidates for the top six spots versus Chapelle while senior Abigail Mahe (98) and freshman Marissa Nguyen (96) are other possibilities.

The Lady Tigers defeated No. 8 Alexandria, 25-2, in the regional round after a first-round bye before then shocking No. 1 H.L. Bourgeois, 20.5-6.5, in the quarterfinals. Tran rolled games of 200, 207 and 205 in the regional victory against Alexandria.

“I know the top six (scorers) will start,’’ Walls said. “After that it will depend on how we adjust. These girls are so solid so that I usually rotate them. I get used to using nine girls. To see them transition from not having won a (match) to advancing to the state semifinals is just amazing.’’

“It’s going to be a tough one’’ versus Chapelle, Walls said. “Chapelle is one of the best teams in the area. Chapelle is a tough, strong team. But my girls can give them a run for their money if we’re ready. We want to focus on our game and just remember to do what they know how to do. Bowling is about doing what you do best and focusing on your game and controlling what you can control.’’

Chapelle, 14-0, is seeking its first state title since 2021when the then No. 2 seeded Chipmunks defeated No. 9 Central of Baton Rouge, 15-12, in the championship match. The Chipmunks defeated No. 13 Airline, 24.5-2.5, in the regional round following a bye and then defeated No. 12 Scholastica, 23-4, in the quarterfinals.

Junior Olivia Bares leads Chapelle with a 204 scoring average with junior Elizabeth Hamilton (202), sophomore Alexandra Young (171), ninth-grader Taylor Bourdonnay (169), junior Mia Bella Harvey (159) and senior Mary Dufrene (155) rounding out the top six.

Freshman Addison Belle (164) and senior Cassidy Schroder (144) are other possibilities along with eighth-grader Carolyne Hill (117), senior Brooke Chatelain (112) and freshman Isabelle Leboeuf (101).

“If you look at the averages and compare the two teams going into this semifinals match, we are averaging 1,069 while their top six is around 810, so we are about 250 pins higher,’’ Chapelle coach Dorothy Himbert, whose husband Bruce is Brother Martin’s coach. “I’m very confident in my girls. My top six are all returners. They’ve been in this situation (before). Now, nerves may catch up with them, but I’m very confident that they can pull this off.

“We’ve got a very young team. But I can see them doing well this year and, if all goes well, repeating next year. The key is spares and pin counts. Spares and pin counts are the big thing about winning matches. We’ve got some girls who are able to string some strikes together and add up to a good game. “Sometimes nerves and butterflies in the stomach affect you. But hitting those spares and getting those nerves out of you are key to doing well.’’