SCHENECTADY — Phonsey Lambert knows much more about home runs, batting average and RBI on the baseball diamond than he does about strikes and spares on the bowling lanes. But the veteran baseball coach certainly understands how to build a winning athletic program.
An extremely successful baseball coach for several decades and now in his fourth season as the Saratoga Central Catholic bowling coach, Lambert’s views on how to motivate student athletes came in handy, as the Saints won what it is believed to be their first sectional bowling championship in the Section II Class C/D Tournament Monday at Boulevard Bowl.
Spa Catholic, which knocked down 5,629 pins, surged from third place after the morning block to first by putting together a 942 in game No. 4 and a huge 1,029 in game No. 5 to overtake Canajoharie (5,504) and perennial sectional champion Hoosick Falls (5,483). Although the Saints failed to overtake Class B champion Lansingburgh for the overall small-school championship and a trip to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Bowling Championships next month in Syracuse, they were extremely proud of their accomplishment.
The boys’ Section II Class A, scheduled for today, has been rescheduled for Thursday because of the impending storm.
“I’m so happy for my two seniors who started with me four years ago,” Lambert said. “They came up big, especially Tim Barrett with that 279 game in game No. 5. We also have arguably one of the best female bowlers in Section II in Micaela Barbolt. She made a decision not to go to the girls’ sectionals and instead stay with the team. She said, ‘Don’t even ask me about that.’ We wouldn’t have won without her.”
All five of Spa Catholic’s starters shot at least 1,053.
“To be honest, I don’t think we ever won more than five matches before I took over,” Lambert said. “We have a banner in our gym for winning the New York State championship for academics in bowling. Our team cumulative academic average was 99.8, but our bowling average was 106.5. We started to turn it around four years ago in the Western Athletic Conference, and now we’re in the Adirondack League, which is a great league. Just to be competing with these guys is something. In the league, we finished third, and we couldn’t compete with Hoosick Falls or Mechanicville when we used all six bowlers, but with our top five, we can compete with anybody. That’s what I told our team, because we only needed five bowlers in sectionals.
“We have a very balanced team. Our kids practice on vacation days. Bowling used to be just something to do at Saratoga Catholic before. Now, it’s a commitment. The kids are committed to being excellent. It’s a tribute to them and all their hard work.
“We finished second last year, and our goal this year was to get back here and win it.”
Barrett, who had triples of 545 in the morning and 630 in the afternoon, said the key for the Saints was to relax and have fun.
“I think we stopped worrying about how the other teams were bowling and concentrate on having fun,” he said. “In the fifth game, I was just goofing off and having fun. I wasn’t thinking about what my score was and the ball was coming off my hand good.
I love Coach Lambert. “He’s inspiring, and he loves to watch us bowl. He has a lot of good speeches, and that brings us up. Most of the kids on our team bowl in league together. We know what each other had to do, and we help each other.”
Barbolt led the Saints with a six-game block of 1,179. She had a 610 triple in the afternoon.
“He [Lambert] brings a lot of positive energy, and he tries to make us do our best,” she said. “I won girls’ states when I was at Saratoga (Springs), but this is the first time we ever won sectionals at Spa Catholic. We lost by 13 pins last year, and it was a motivating factor for us this year.”
Zac Niles, who shot a 1,143 six-game block, recalls what he program was like when he first joined it.
“I knew nothing about bowling when I was in ninth grade,” he said. “I needed to win this for me, for my team and for more entire school. It was awesome to win it. We’re not a bowling powerhouse at Spa Catholic, but winning this year shows me mean business.”
Hayden Day (1,079) and LJ Lafiura (1,053) rounded out the winning Spa Catholic quintet.
The current All-Section Composite team, excluding any possible Class A representatives, is Johnstown’s Mick Winton (1,305), Canajoharie’s Cian DiMezza (1,252), Mechanicville’s Jacob LaFountain (1,250), Max Suprenant of Cohoes (1,241), Noah Miller of Catholic Central (1,233) and Alex Belcher of Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons (1,231).
Team scores: Saratoga Central Catholic 5,629, Canajoharie 5,504, Hoosick Falls 5,483, Middleburgh 5,377, Fort Plain 5,339, Fort Edward 5,296, Stillwater 5,068, Lake George 4,934, Catholic Central 4,916, Maple Hill 4,879, North Warren 4,733, Hoosic Valley 4,732, Whitehall 4,719, Chatham 4,559, Schoharie 4,526, Greenville 4,485, Mayfield 4,346, Hadley-Luzerne 4,208, Waterford-Halfmoon 3,924, Duanesburg 3,905, Berne-Knox-Westerlo 3,258, OESJ 3,257.
High Triples: Cian DeMezza (Canajoharie) 653, Noah Miller (Catholic Central 634, Taylor Gifford (Fort Plain) 616.
High Singles: Tim Barrett (Saratoga Catholic) 279, Garrett Dunsmore (Lake George), Damion Wright (Lake George) 255, Zach Hollister (Whitehall) 247.
Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected] or @BobWeiner58 on Twitter.