Go B-Town, go

Knights’ bowlers win school’s first state crown in 32 years.


Sports editor

TACOMA — As Bremerton senior Emmy Thomas toed the line for the final frames of her high school girls bowling career, she admits she could hardly see the pins set up 60 feet away, her eyes blurred by welling tears of emotion.

“I could barely see,” Thomas said. “My eyes were all watery when I was bowling. (Coach Dean) Wagner kept telling me to slow down and breathe.”

Three strikes later, tears of joy began streaming down the faces of Thomas, her teammates and the Bremerton faithful, cementing the first state championship won by a Bremerton sports team since 1976, when East Bremerton’s baseball team took the 2A crown. With 7,601 total pins, the Knights took home the championship trophy at the 2008 WIAA 3A/2A State Girls Bowling Championships, held last weekend at Narrows Plaza Lanes, by more than 200 total pins.

“It’s amazing,” Wagner said. “I can not stress enough the team aspect today. If it wasn’t one person, then it was another and then another. It was truly a team.”

The win culminated a near-perfect season for the Knights. Bremerton went undefeated in league play, including the league tournament, finished second at districts and third at the Tower Classic early in the season, behind state 4A champions Wilson (which won its third consecutive 4A title) and Kelso, which did not qualify for state after taking second to Shelton at the 3A/2A tourney last year. At state however, the Knights even topped Wilson’s pin total by nearly 200 pins (the Rams picked up 7,412 pins total).

Thomas herself finished third overall with 1,122 pins in the six games bowled on Day One, including a high game of 201 — which she rolled an incredibly consistent three times. Wagner said he couldn’t have scripted a better ending to her high school career, and the Knights’ season, himself.

“Emmy’s last tourney, she went out on top,” Wagner said. “It was fantastic. And I’m not talking only about her scores. She was a leader out here.”

Bremerton’s rollers had a big backing throughout the weekend, with several showing up with painted faces and many more adorned in Bremerton’s blue and gold colors. All Bremerton supporters made their voices heard however, bellowing out chants of “Go B-Town, go B-town, go!” each time a Knight picked up a mark.

“Sometimes it’s overwhelming,” Thomas said of the Bremerton faithful. “They’re a little loud at times and at times they get crazy. But that’s what we welcome. They’re here to support us and they did a good job of it.”

After opening the first game of Day One with a score of 840, the Knights never looked back, maintaining that lead in every frame if not growing it. By the end of the day, the Knights took a 5,169-5,105 lead over runner-up Shelton, which topped Bremerton at districts the previous week.

In addition to Thomas finishing the first day third overall, Ariel Wagg and Samantha Smith were eighth and ninth respectively. Wagg tallied up 1,080 pins with a high game of 223 while Smith was close behind at 1,064, her high mark being 214.

Wagg was one of several Knight rollers elated by the team title.

“It feels like sunshine and happiness,” Wagg said with a wide grin.

Kirstie Williams and Samantha Stephens both had solid days for Bremerton as well, with Williams racking up 969 pins alongside Stephens’ 934. Shanarra Hankinson and Mariah Roberson were Bremreton’s alternates.

And while some individuals had higher scores than others, Wagner reiterated that each was needed for the team to win.

“It was the maturity and the team support amongst the girls,” he said. “Bowling is such a mental game. They just support each other.

“The season couldn’t be any more perfect. Everything fell into place.”

Bremerton maintained its momentum heading into Day Two, starting the Baker format with a 180 and 182 in the first two of 14 Bakers rolled by the teams. While the team dipped some in the next three games, hitting a low of 118 in the fifth Baker, Bremerton rebounded nicely, logging a 220 in game eight and a 202 in the final game.

And while the team had all but locked up the title with two Bakers to go, Wagner wanted his team to finish like they’d rolled all year.

“They knew we were in it,” Wagner said. “They’d already started crying in the last game. It was just emotional. Really emotional.”

Having finished behind Shelton, last year’s state champs, several times in recent years, Thomas said the Knights came in with one simple goal.

“We came in after Shelton. That was our goal,” Thomas said. “We kept with them yeterday and beat them today. I can’t even explain it.”

Having previous experience a the state’s toughest tourney didn’t hurt either, Wagner said.

“The girls have been to districts, they’ve been to state and they’ve done well,” he said. “They knew what it’s all about. And they’re all coming back except for Emmy. Now we’ve exposed a couple new players for the postseason. Now they’ll know what it’s like.”

With Thomas, the team’s lone senior, graduating this year, everyone on Bremerton’s squad wanted to send her off with a bang.

“For one of our players, it’s her last year,” Wagg said. “We wanted this to be really special for her, something to remember.”

For Thomas, who shared a teary embrace with her family and friends following the tournament’s conclusion, it was the culmination of all she’s worked toward in trying to legitimize girls bowling at Bremerton.

“I just wish I wasn’t leaving,” she said.

With players as dedicated as Bremerton’s, Wagner said he couldn’t think of a better group of girls to shed more positive light on BHS’ sports program.

“They truly represent Bremerton in the most positive light all season,” he said. “That culminated at districts with the sportsmanship award. It’s an amazing chemistry and support aspect that I can’t replace. It’s just amazing.”

Wagner said the parental and fan support that reverberated throughout several bowling alleys in western Washington this season has only helped.

“They’re the loudest,” he said. “They support all the decisions I make. They’re always supportive, always kind and always here.”

With so many girls returning, Wagg said the team knows they’ll have targets on their backs.

“We’re just hoping next year will be fun,” she said. “Because it’s gonna get really, really hard.”

And perhaps even more than the title itself, Wagner was pleased with his squad’s resilience in listing their names along side the state’s top bowling teams.

“This year, it was a perfect season,” Wagner said. “Coming in, we knew the big names in girls bowling. We were becoming one.

“At this point, I think we are one.”