Sports

Bremerton bowlers embark on new season

With deadpanned eyes and the ball cradled in cupped hands, Misty Braddock toed the line.

After three smooth strides and a right-armed thrust, the senior barreled a shot over the gutter, right to left, down the middle. Swoosh.

Strike.

“Go B-Town! Go B-Town! Go!” her teammates chanted.

Bowling season has arrived.

The Bremerton girls bowling team opened its home schedule with a 7-0 win Tuesday over North Mason at Bremerton Lanes. Braddock shot a 323 over two regular games, Shanarra Hankinson rolled a match-high 182 in Game 2 and the Lady Knights swept the Baker games to secure a 1,766-1,216 pin advantage en route to their first league victory of the season.

“They’ve really progressed a lot since the beginning of the year,” said interim coach Doug Wagner, who is filling in for son Dean. “We’ll be pretty solid, we’ll be up and down just like everybody else.”

As fourth-year coach Dean Wagner recovers from back surgery, father Doug assumes the reigns of an established BHS team that has reached the state championships each of the past two seasons, winning the title in 2007-08.

Last season, the Lady Knights (1-1) finished second at districts and third at state. The team lost No. 1 roller Ariel Wagg, who graduated, but returns the majority of its varsity roster.

Senior Kirstie Williams, who rolled a 268 Tuesday, returns with Braddock and Hankinson, a junior, as well as sophomores Brittany Schroeder and Merissa Duzenski. Sophomore Allie Taylor and junior Rebecca Gardner a newcomer who Doug Wagner called a “very fine bowler,” round out BHS’ top seven.

“We’ve got some pretty solid people,” Wagner said. “I think we’re right there at No. 3 or hopefully No. 2 (in the Olympic League).”

Olympic, who defeated the Lady Knights 6-1 (2,037-1,943) in the regular-season opener Nov. 12 and took second at state last season, is favored to win the Olympic League.

Wagner put BHS in the same category as up-and-coming Klahowya, saying, “We’re right there with them.” He also expects North Mason and Sequim to vie for postseason berths.

“I keep preaching to them, ‘You’re in it till the end. Do you’re best when you’re out there, don’t worry about the scores and if we leave and say we did the best we could do, then that’s good enough,” Wagner said. “If we can walk out of the house feeling good about ourselves, even if we come in second, that’s fine with everybody.”

As Dean Wagner recovers — he is slated to return early next month — Doug Wagner is using light-hearted, yet competitive, approach to coaching to motivate the team.

Tactically, Doug Wagner admits his son’s knowledge of bowling is far greater than his. But the father, who was the Bremerton girls basketball coach for 12 seasons, believes the sport hinges upon mental toughness as much as technical skills.

“He’s going to be able to move them a lot more on the lanes. They are going to see more progress, faster maybe, when he gets back,” Doug Wagner said of Dean’s looming return. “I have to have help with that. I’m not that well-versed, but I’m learning it as we go.”

With the season in its infant stages, BHS’ roster continues to shuffle. There are five starting positions for each match, but the Lady Knights have seven capable bowlers.

Wagner used all seven Tuesday, rotating Gardner and Hankinson in for Taylor and Schroeder for the second regular game. Whether a set five-roller rotation emerges, both Wagners agree the primary goal is for the team to improve each day.

“These girls are very open to criticism, useful criticism for them,” Doug Wagner said. “They’re a great group of girls, they’re cohesive, they’re really good and they keep their spirits up. I haven’t seen them drag their heads at all.”

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