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ALTON – Alton 's bowling team entered the 2017-18 season with many questions which were seeking answers.

For the Redbirds, the season, however, provided signs which are pointing to a bright future.

Saturday's IHSA Alton girls bowling regional tournament at Bowl Haven Lanes were unqualified successes for both programs; the Redbirds advanced to next Saturday's sectional tournament at NuBowl Lanes in Mount Vernon as a team thanks to a fourth-place finish (the top four teams advanced to the sectional) on the day, while the Tigers just missed on advancing as a team themselves as they finished fifth on the day but did get Sydney Sahuri to the sectional as one of the top 10 bowlers on the day on non-qualifying teams.

Highland, helped by a perfect game thrown by freshman Molly Marshall, won the team title with a total 5,456 pins, ahead of Vandalia (5,292), Triad (4,936) and the Redbirds (4,894) as the teams moving on to Mount Vernon. Edwardsville took fifth with 4,620 pins, followed by Jersey (4,607), Marquette Catholic (4,517), Civic Memorial (4,453), Roxana (4,049), Metro East Lutheran (4,044), Granite City (3,746) and East Alton-Wood River (3,210).

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Alton's Alex Bergin took the individual championship with a six-game total pinfall of 1,246, including a high game of 243 in her fifth game of the day; Marshall finished second, 30 pins behind, followed by Highland's Emma Shuster (1,190) and Vandalia's Sophia Richardson (1,169). Sahuri finished fifth with 1,156 pins on the day, the best score of the 10 individuals advancing to Mount Vernon. Marquette's Shelby Jones (1,104), CM's Erin Zobrist (1,075), Roxana's Olivia Stangler (1,053), Piasa Southwestern's Haylee Hallows (1,048), MEL's Olivia Halusan (1,042), Jersey's Brittany Campbell (1,022), CM's Nicole King (1,017), Jersey's Samantha Ayers (1,007) and Carlinville's Kelli Page (978) also advanced as individuals to the sectional. Triad's Chenoa Stokes also moved into the sectional with a total of 178 in the wheelchair division of the competition.

“I'm really pleased with the girls,” said Redbird coach Dave Meyer. “At the beginning of the year, we weren't sure just how we were going to do because it's a rebuilding year (after losing several top bowlers to graduation); we had some new beginners come out and everything, but they all stepped it up today and stayed focused.

“We had some girls stepped who stepped it up; we had one girl, Akela Smith, who had her first 200 game today (a 201 in Game 6); Alex Bergin stepped it up and won the regional (individual) championship today; we're really proud of the girls today for the way they worked – it all depended on how the pins fall; we had one bad game in the morning session the second game out of the block that sort of hurt us from going higher than we did, but we still finished strong and that's the plus.”

Beside's Bergin's regional-winning score, Robi Dublo rolled a six-game 998, Cassie Bowman a 956, Sami Dublo an 840, Smith a five-game 753 and Sade Blackmon a one-game 101 for the Redbirds on the day.

Granite City's Marissa Lahey led the Warriors on the day with a six-game 877 while Triad's Lizzie Powell had the top score for her team with a six-game 1,145 and EAWR's Lindzey Morrison led the Oilers with a six-game 744 on the day.

The top four teams and the top five bowlers from non-qualifying teams from each of the four sectionals next Saturday advance to the IHSA state tournament Feb. 16-17 at Cherry Bowl in Rockford; Machesney Park Harlem is the defending team champion.

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