GREENFIELD — Last year’s team state tournament disappointment has been cast aside with a near perfect follow through for the Greenfield-Central bowling squad this winter.
Named the undefeated Indianapolis South Conference champions earlier this month, Greenfield-Central has returned to form as a group in 2017-18 under the direction of head coach Charlton Cavette and assistant coach David Evans.
Greenfield-Central captured its first sectional team title since 2015 two weeks ago and finished runner-up during this past weekend’s bowling regional at Strike Force Lanes in Greenfield to earn an automatic berth into this Saturday’s semistate tournament at the Richmond 40 Bowl.
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Another strong performance this weekend could push the Greenfield-Central bowlers into the spotlight Feb. 3, when 12 boys teams — six from each of the two semistate sites — and eight girls teams will convene at Championship Lanes in Anderson for the state finals.
“This is one of the hungriest teams I’ve ever been a part of,” said Cavette, who is in his second year as head coach. “They always want to be better than they were the day before.”
A coed bowling team, Greenfield-Central’s postseason intentions were put on display from the outset of its 2017-18 state tournament run.
At the Indianapolis South Sectional on Jan. 13, the Cougars commanded the lanes inside the Expo Bowl in Beech Grove. The Greenfield-Central boys team posted a tournament-best score of 2,348 and entered the event’s step-ladder competition as the No. 1 seed.
With the tournament’s top-four teams securing step-ladder placements, the Cougars dismantled Franklin Central 422-303 in the finals to seize the team sectional championship while advancing four of its 10 singles bowlers onto regional.
The state tournament step-ladder format for both teams and individuals pits the top four against one another after play-in bowling. The lowest seeds must win three matches to claim the title, while the top seed is given a direct route into the finals, needing only one win to capture the championship.
Senior Jonathan Harnish completed the clean sweep for Greenfield-Central by winning the tournament’s individual boys sectional title.
Harnish, who represented the Cougars as a state qualifier in 2017, was the sectional’s third-best bowler prior to step-ladder competition. Once he earned his chance, Harnish rolled as the No. 3 seed, winning three consecutive step-ladder matches to become the team’s first individual sectional champion since Clayton Spegal in 2016.
Harnish, who placed 18th in the state as a junior, defeated Franklin’s Paxton Henderson 187-159 in his first sectional step-ladder game before beating the No. 2 seed in Perry Meridian’s Alex Morgan 245-218. In the step-ladder finals, he took down No. 1 seed Drew Yates of Southport 255-226.
“Jonathan Harnish is dedicated to the game. His focus on the lanes reminds me a lot of myself when I bowled in college (at Ball State),” Cavette said. “When his mind is clear, he has the tools to be successful way beyond his high school days.”
The march continued for Harnish and the Greenfield-Central team at regional, which was conducted in their hometown.
Overall, the Cougars recorded a score of 2,314 to lead all teams and earned the step-ladder’s No. 1 seed in search of their first boys regional crown since 2016.
No. 3 seed Muncie Central of the White River Valley II conference played spoiler, however, winning three straight step-ladder matchups, including against the Cougars 441-358 in the finals.
While a setback, the Cougars successfully had three bowlers advance to the semistate as singles — Harnish, Michael Harter and Macy Huber — and moved on as a team, a feat that eluded Greenfield-Central last year.
More individually driven in 2016-17, led by Spegal, Harnish, Will Blagburn and Zachary Knopp, this season’s Cougars are a unified pack after failing to get out of sectional as a team last winter.
At sectional, Blagburn and Harter both posted scores of 589 and 569, respectively, behind Harnish for 11th and 14th. Huber, one of the team’s standout girls bowlers, was fifth overall with a score of 548.
Huber was 10th at regional in the girls competition with a 527, and Harter posted a 559 for 16th. Harnish had a regional score of 590, missing the step-ladder cut but still advancing as a singles bowler and with his team.
Entering the semistate, Greenfield-Central’s total regional score stands as the third-best of the teams set to compete.
Jasper carries an Evansville Regional runner-up total of 2,393. They lost to Evansville Central 356-323 in the step-ladder finals at Franklin Lanes last weekend. Huntington North posted a 2,373 at regional in Bluffton and won the team title against Homestead 385-359 at The Bowling Center.
The Cougars boys last state appearance as a team was in 2016 when they placed 7th overall with a score of 2,643. They bowled a 2,679 at semistate to advance while Spegal won the individual title as a fourth-seed.
In 2015, Greenfield-Central was 12th overall at state with a score of 2,425. Greenfield-Central bowled a 2,693 at semistate to advance.