In the first championship match against Topeka High, Lawrence High senior Rebecca McNemee stepped up to the lane with both teams tied heading into the 10th frame.
So what was going through her mind?
“I was focusing on our team score. I tell you, I did not look at that (other) screen at all,” McNemee said. “I was just oblivious —for the first time ever — to the other team’s score. I think that really helped.”
Without knowing the pressure, McNemee came through when her team needed her most, posting a spare then a strike that helped the LHS girls to a 148-132 victory in that match and an eventual championship in Saturday’s 12-team Free State Invitational at Royal Crest Lanes.
Free State took the second match against Topeka High, 147-122, to sweep the best-of-three championship.
McNemee could only say, “Oh gosh” later when she was told by her teammates that her 10th frame spare/strike ended up being the difference.
“The pressure can really get to me a lot of times,” McNemee said. “With this one, I was so focused on our team that I was just wanting to have fun.”
Saturday’s invitational used the Baker format, which means five bowlers on each team alternate frames to contribute to one team score.
After being seeded based on their morning games, teams were placed in single-elimination brackets, going head-to-head against another school. The first team to win two out of three games advanced in the bracket.
McNemee also was clutch for LHS in the semifinals, knocking down a 6-10 spare in the 10th frame before setting down nine pins with her final ball.
The Lions ended up needing that spare, as they defeated Seaman, 145-137, in that match.
“Baker is a completely team-sport atmosphere,” McNemee said, “and just how we all contributed at the right moment at the right time was amazing.”
Junior Kierstan Warren added a strike in the eighth frame of the final match against Topeka High, while Miranda Krom provided steady play in her first varsity match as a freshman.
“At first, you have a lot of pressure on you (with Baker format),” Krom said. “But it’s more energetic, because you have more people cheering for you.”
The Free State girls had the next-best city showing, posting three head-to-head victories — including a 2-1 win over top-seeded Washburn Rural —before falling in the semifinals to Topeka High.
“The girls did extremely well,” FSHS coach Burton Gepford said. “They went over expectations. We almost came back to make it to the finals.”
Free State made the final four after being seeded ninth.
“I think we were all just running off each other’s adrenaline,” FSHS’s Emily Reno said. “We were just telling each other to push (ourselves), so we did. I think that’s how we got so far.”
After earning the fifth seed, the LHS boys fell to Topeka High in the opening round. The Trojans followed that up by defeating fourth-seeded Free State.
The Firebirds lost 2-1 despite bowling a combined 260 in one game.
After posing for some photos on the lanes, the LHS girls accepted the first-place plaque, with some of the girls even giving it a kiss.
Following the celebration, McNemee used her shirt to wipe off the fingerprints and smear marks.
“It’s a fulfilling thing. It’s permanent, showing that we really did do this, and as a team, we were amazing,” McNemee said. “Now that we can hang that in our school and announce that to everyone ... that just feels awesome.”