Coach Bruce Himbert has been saying for weeks he wanted to put his hands on the state championship bowling trophy for a second straight year.
It became a mantra almost willing his Brother Martin squad to defend their boys/coed title.
But the Crusaders didn’t need a lot of coaxing to get the job done Friday at All-Star Lanes in Baton Rouge, even though they weren’t always at the top of their game, winning at the Allstate/Sugar Bowl LHSAA bowling championships 17-10 over Vandebilt Catholic of Houma.
Not only did the Crusaders bring home the championship again (giving the New Orleans region the division title for the fifth time in eight years), but a Brother Martin bowler won the singles gold medal for the second straight year.
Brother Martin advanced to the championship round with a 21-6 win over Lafayette in a match that saw the Crusaders a winner despite being well under their six-player average in the first two games. But in the third game, Brother Martin got a 268 from R. J. Beecher, a 269 from Cody Schaffer and a 279 from Jonathon Fernandez to send the team to the final with ease.
The Crusaders did not have to face the home team on the home lanes in the final as the No. 1 seed in the West, Vandebilt Catholic, took out East No. 2 seed Catholic of Baton Rouge 17-10.
That set up a matchup of the past two champions in the division. Ten of the 12 bowlers topped 200, with all six Brother Martin members posting 212 or above in the best-of-27 point scoring system to take six of the first eight points. The Crusaders did the same in the second game to go up 12-4.
Brother Martin needed two individual wins or the three total pins points to win the title. For the longest time, it looked like those three points might decide a 14-13 match.
Max Oertling, who won win the singles gold medal with a three-game average of 225, was able to get one point for the Crusaders in the third spot 224-171 over Kevin Besson, but things were getting tight on the high average 4-5-6 side.
But Jonathan Fernandez got the clinching point with a 202-190 win in the four spot.
“It was much closer than the score. Seventeen-10 doesn’t tell you how close it was,” Himbert said. “Our biggest thing was I told them we were 62 pins up. That’s nothing. (Vandebilt) throws strikes and they throw them fast. I told our kids, ‘Make every spare and get count on splits and let’s get two points,’ ... When (Fernandez) threw the first one in the 10th … (the state title) became real. It’s a great feeling.”
Brother Martin had five seniors on this year’s squad with four in the starting lineup — Beecher, Brandon Aucoin, Oertling and Kyle Schneider — along with Chad Naccari.
The Central girls took home that state championship, besting Morgan City in the final match 21-6. Central defeated Ellender and Morgan City surprised defending champion St. Scholastica 18.5-8.5 in the semis. Jessie Smith of Central took the gold medal in singles with a 620 series.
Defending girls singles champion Kayla Engeron of St. Charles Catholic took home the bronze medal this year with a 600 series.