COLLINSVILLE - Sam Ottwell of Alton and Ben Sloan of Collinsville qualified as individuals in the sectional tournament held this past Saturday at Camelot Bowl in Collinsville.

Salem won the team championship with a score of 6,570, with O'Fallon coming in second at 6,547, Jersey was third with a 6,343, The Redbirds came in 11th with a score of 5,748 and Carterville rounded out the top 12 with a score of 5.718. See the related story for Jersey's results.

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Evan Flaith of Carterville was the individual champion with a six-game series of 1,466, with both Sloan and Ottwell qualifying as one of the top seven individuals not on qualifying teams, as each shot a six-game series of 1,255.

The Redbirds ran into trouble in the morning session and couldn't bounce back, but the team stuck together, no matter what, and did their best all season long.

Alton head boys bowling coach David Meyer said he was proud of his boys for how they performed this year.

"They still stayed together as a team, they worked hard and it was a good season. I look forward to next season," he said. The coach also praised his two state qualifiers -Ottwell and Eric Spond.

Ottwell, Ben Mitchell and Spond bowled well throughout the season and had very good showings in the tournament, the coach added.

"Ben and Eric, especially Eric and Sam, really," Meyer said, "they did finish strong at the end of the season. They both had a great end of the year and worked hard and improved."

Meyer enjoys working with his bowlers very much and had high praise for his entire team.

"They really came together as a team at the end of the season and that was good to see, they way they worked hard together," he explained. "And I can see, hopefully, some potential next year, positive with the way the kids want to be and everything. We've got some good people coming up."

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Ottwell led the Redbirds with his state qualifying score of 1,255, while Gabe Futhey tossed a five-game series of 964, Mitchell had a five-game series of 875, Roman Cross threw a three-game series of 808, Spond had a three-game series of 781, Brayden Buchanan had a four-game set of 687 and Ryan Cook threw a two-game series of 378.

Sloan led the Kahoks with his 1,255 state qualifying series, while Cole Buckman tossed a six-game set of 1,233, Brandon Campbell was right behind with a 1,229 series, Mason Foley had a 1,164 series, Jacob Taylor had a five-game series of 891 and Hayden LaDrew threw a single game of 148.

Among the local individual scores, Andrew Neumann of Triad had a 1,043 series, Edwardsville's Thomas Rice had a 1,230 series, with teammate Nevin Guetterman having a 1,202 set, Marquette Catholic's Hayden Sherman had a 1,194 series, while teammates Max Cogan tossed a 1,025 series and Nicholas Trefny tossed a 1,019 set, Eric Harkey of Civic Memorial had a 1,140 set, with teammate Ben Morris tossing a series of 1,024, Caleb Wonders of Roxana had a series of 1,085, with L.J. Walker of East Alton-Wood River tossing a 1,007, Mason Basnett of Piasa Southwestern threw a 1,017 series and Jack Rives led Carlinville with a 1,234 series, with teammates Jordan Griffei tossing a 1,145 set and Jack Rives having a 958 series.

Jersey, Ottwell and Sloan will all advance to the state tournament next Friday and Saturday at St. Clair Bowl in O'Fallon, the only state finals held in both the St. Louis area and in Southern Illinois. Nelson and the Panthers are very familiar with St. Clair Bowl and think that the team, along with other local bowlers, have an advantage bowling close to home.

"We went, last week, over there, they had a Baker tournament over at O'Fallon," Nelson said, "and we ended up winning. And we just went to practice and our boys, we just took five and they ended up winning the bracket tournament. So I think we're in good shape for over there for next weekend."

Nelson will take a simple approach to the state tournament next weekend as well.

"Everybody just trying to keep their heads," Nelson said, "and pick their spares and strikes. The main thing is just to keep them focused."

Meyer is already looking ahead to the Redbirds' prospects for the 2023-24 season and feels that the team has a bright future ahead.

"Yes, it is," Meyer said. "It's going to get stronger. There are some good kids coming up from the middle school and so, I think that we're only graduating the senior from the varsity team. We're going to be OK next year."

Dan Brannan also contributed to this story.

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