Splits, spares and strikes: Elite team bowling often overlooked

If I hadn’t been there myself to witness it last Wednesday, I might’ve missed it altogether.

It’s one of those feats that doesn’t get a lot of recognition – a big team score – so I can’t really say if it’s some kind of area record. But it sure looked awesome from my vantage point on the adjacent pair of lanes at Superior Lanes on Wednesday night.

The Auto Spa team opened their night in the Industrial League with a scratch (no handicap) game of 1,286, the highest team game I’ve seen in 25 years in the Upper Peninsula.

They finished the night with a 3,497 series total, also the highest I’ve personally seen in the U.P.

It was a real stunner because this team wasn’t just an all-star lineup of the area’s best male bowlers. They did have one of the best, Justin Stephens of Negaunee, as a substitute that night, and two other top-notch bowlers, the brother-and-sister tandem of David Lancour and Amber Buckmaster of Marquette, who are regulars on the family-based team.

Stephens was averaging 234 for about six weeks as a sub in the league, while Lancour was at 214 and Buckmaster an area high for women of 200.

They added Amber’s husband, Andy Buckmaster, and Amber and David’s cousin, Allen Lancour. Andy is carrying what I believe is a career-high 200 average for him, while Allen, still tinkering with his two-handed style, is at 179.

That gave them a team average of 1,027, and while that’s good, it’s also about a hundred pins less than if you put an all-star team together of the five highest-average bowlers in this area.

Examining a frame-by-frame printout of their night, they threw an incredible 42 strikes in 56 tries in the big game as they averaged 257.2. That’s with Stephens rolling 286, Allen 263, David 257, Amber 243 and Andy 237.

They didn’t have any open frames, though Stephens and Allen Lancour threw splits they didn’t convert on the second ball of their 10th frames. Those misses only cost them one pin each on their score.

Every team member had at least one string of five consecutive strikes, and Stephens made a run at 300, rolling the first 10 before a 4-6-7 split ended that bid.

Only once in my life have I ever seen a team hit 1,300, and that was more than 25 years ago in Saginaw in a high-powered men’s scratch league.

Not surprisingly, the Auto Spa team couldn’t quite keep up that pace for the rest of the night, though Stephens and David Lancour each kept their hopes for an 800 series alive until the last four frames of the night, Lancour hitting a career-high 782 and Stephens 770.

They tacked on team games of 1,130 and 1,081 for 3,497. That just missed the important threshold of 3,500, which breaks down to a 700 average per person.

Again, though, since these scores don’t get the recognition that a perfect 300 game or 700 and 800 individual series get, maybe some team somewhere in the area has beaten it.

Stephens, though, says he’s never been part of a 3,500 scratch score, and if anybody would be part of one, it certainly ought to be him.

By the way, Amber Buckmaster finished with 670, Andy Buckmaster 642 and Allen Lancour 633, Allen’s final-game 168 the only sub-200 game on the team all night.

Now let’s check out The Mining Journal Bowlers of the Week for Jan. 24-30:

Katherine Rogers zoomed past the competition on the women’s side by shooting 162 pins over her 126 average with a 540 in the Friday Nite Mixed at Red Rock Lanes, putting together games of 177, 197 and 166.

Next came two bowlers from the Thursday Night Ladies at Red Rock. Michelle West was 109 over her 125 average with a 484 set and 172 high game, while Mary Aho was 107 over her 136 average with 515 and a 187 tops.

For the men, Ken Tritt shot 159 pins over his 170 average in the Friday 800 Mixed at Superior Lanes with 669 on games of 212, 223 and 234.

Both second and third were Andrew Virch, the winner just two weeks ago. His top effort was 150 over his 195 average in the same 800 Mixed loop on a 735 series and 288 best game, then he was also 127 over his 198 average in the Monday Northern Electric Automotive Industrial League at Red Rock, shooting 721 with a 256 tops.