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O’FALLON, Ill. Twice was just as nice for the Hononegah boys bowling team.
The Indians captured their second IHSA state title in four years Saturday at O’Clair Bowl Saturday afternoon.
Hononegah won the crown with a 420 pin cushion over NIC 10 rival Freeport, and senior Nick Sommer completed the daily double by winning the individual title.
Sommer finished with 2,715 pins, two pins better than Alex Acosta of Bolingbrook.
Sommer came back to win, thanks in large measure to the 290 he rolled in game five. The Indians didn’t have much drama in the final game, with Sommers’ performance a big exception.
“Short of all five bowlers falling and breaking their legs, we knew the championship was in our hands,” Hononegah coach Brad Sommer said. “We were able to have fun with it. We just were getting through each frame, picking up our spares and enjoying the moment. It was a much more relaxed atmosphere in that final game.”
Nick Sommer was relaxed and highly emotion at the same time. Sommer was battling with Acosta, who was on the lane to the left of him. Acosta struck out in the final frame just as Sommer was beginning his 10th. Acosta’s strong finish meant Sommer needed to deliver two strikes and a nine to capture the title.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the most pressure packed frame of his life: He made a math error.
“I added it wrong,” Sommer said. “Once he struck out, the math I did said that I didn’t have a chance to win. But I went up there really wanting to finish my high school career with three strikes. I was emotional for the entire time, tears were coming out of my eyes. After my second shot, I had to collect myself for about a minute. Once I did that, I hit the shot and there was just pure and excitement and joy.
“It was bittersweet. We were so excited that we accomplished this, but at the same time I knew we were all going in different directions. Some are going to trade school, some to college and some back to high school. We know geographically we aren’t going to be close anymore, but we have friendships now that will last us the rest of our lives.”
It only took about three minutes before he found out he was a state champion.
“They were flashing the standings across the screen and they put my name up there first,” Sommer said. “I went up to my dad and he was trying to explain it was right. I was almost arguing with him for a while. It took a bit for reality to set in. I know it’s like a cliche, but I felt like I was dreaming. Had I known I would’ve had to basically strike out to win, there might have been a different result. Bowling is as much a mental game as it is physical. I went up there with no pressure on me, I just wanted to throw three strikes, then celebrate with my team.”
Zachary Phillips finished with a 215 average, including a 267 in game five, and placed 13th overall. Parker Hearne (202, 38th) also bowled all six games. Cordel Schelm, Brett Beuthin, and Jacob Sommer also contributed, with Sommer bowling the final four games.
The Indians rolled back into town Sunday evening, complete with a police and fire escort, confetti and a fireworks show to celebrate their accomplishment.
Coach Sommer said the tournament went off without a hitch.
“Games two and three on day one (Friday) were where we really stepped up and made a statement,” Sommer said. “We put up an 1,100 and a 1,245, and that was when the rest of the field was struggling to put up 1,000. So that’s a 200 pin jump in just one game. We were able to build on that momentum and just be consistent throughout the rest of the tournament.”
Coach Sommer, who also coached Rockford Guilford to a title before coming to Hononegah, said the team’s ability to get along was key to their success.
“The biggest thing that made this possible is that this team truly does consider themselves brothers,” Sommer said. “They are best friends, and you can’t fake that kind of stuff. It matters a lot. Chemistry and momentum are so important in this sport, and these kids always had each other’s backs. We had moments where our fifth bowler would carry us one game, then our second and third would carry us the next. You don’t win 12 tournaments in a single year without everyone liking each other.”