Bremerton girls bowling gears up for state title defense, but without former star Thomas

Then-senior Emmy Thomas holds the trophy after the BHS bowling team won the Class 2A/3A Girls Bowling Championship last season. - Aaron Managhan/file photo
Then-senior Emmy Thomas holds the trophy after the BHS bowling team won the Class 2A/3A Girls Bowling Championship last season.
— image credit: Aaron Managhan/file photo

A year removed from the single greatest season in Bremerton girls bowling history, a Class 3A/2A state championship, coach Dean Wagner is ready for another roll to the top.

“It was storybook,” Wagner said of the state title, Bremerton’s first in any sport since 1976. “It was the perfect weekend, all the stars aligned.”

The Lady Knights knocked down 7,601 total pins to win the state title, culminating an undefeated regular season (16-0) and Olympic League championship.

But a repeat won’t be easy.

Not only is every team in the Olympic League gunning for the championship, but Bremerton is missing arguably its two strongest rollers from last year’s squad, now-graduated Emmy Thomas and Samm Stephens, who is out six to eight weeks with a broken right hand.

“It adds a whole new feel to the season,” Wagner said.

Bremerton resumed its winning ways at the Olympic League Jamboree Wednesday, rolling a 1,651-pin, first-place finish, more than 200 pins ahead of second-place finisher Olympic (1,473).

But without Thomas, who anchored the 2007-08 title run and also won an individual state championship two years earlier as a sophomore, Wagner looks to returnees Samantha Smith and Ariel Wagg for leadership this year.

Wagg and Smith finished eighth and ninth overall, respectively, at state last year, with Smith being a co-captain.

“We’re relying on their leadership, their support and their been-there-done-that kind of attitude,” Wagner said.

Misty Braddock, Kirstie Williams and Shannara Hankinson complete Bremerton’s starting five, seeing increased roles from last year. All three have coalesced with Wagg and Smith to unite the starting five.

“They are stepping up to the plate and enjoying themselves,” Wagner said. “The team cohesiveness is better than it’s ever been, they support each other every ball.”

Wagner said he’s trying to approach the 2008-09 team with the same mentality he did last year, but the absence of Thomas and Stephens, the label of “champion,” consequent target going with it and two new bowlers in the starting five, have made the vibes a bit different.

“I’m going about it the same way, it just does feel a little different,” Wagner said. “It throws a whole new spin into our practices.”

For now, Bremerton’s 2008-09 season is defined by defending the state title, shooting for another league title, enjoying the game and improving as a team.

“We know they are all coming after us, and we appreciate that. We’re just out to have a good time,” Wagner said. “It’s always easier to fall off the top shelf than it is to get up there.”

But the experience gained from last year’s state title, coupled with a fourth-place finish at state in 2006-07, means Bremerton should be near the top yet again.

“They know the season goes by fast so every practice means something. Every practice we have a goal and we shoot for it,” Wagner said. “We know what it’s like, we know what we have to do.”

Bremerton opened Olympic League play at home against Olympic on Thursday, but results from that match were unavailable at press time. Klahowya finished third at the jamboree with 1370 total pins, while Peninsula (1196), Sequim (1155) and North Mason (846) rounded at the tip six.

Wednesday’s jamboree, however, did not count toward the regular season standings.

The Lady Knights have three consecutive road matches — at North Mason Nov. 18, at Peninsula Nov. 20 and at Sequim Nov. 28 — before finally returning home Dec. 2 against Klahowya.

Bremerton’s home matches are at Bremerton Lanes, where the team also practices daily from 3 to 5 p.m.

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