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Bulldog bowlers deliver one of best-ever performances at West Texas Shootout

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The Artesia High School bowling team opened its season by accepting an invitation to the West Texas High School Shootout in Lubbock, Texas.

Coach Ken Clayton thought taking his young team to a tournament with large Texas schools that have won Texas state championships, as well as many bowlers already committed to Division I colleges, would be a great experience for them.

“I expected us to be a little starry-eyed and nervous being in a completely different environment with major competition,” Clayton said. “I didn’t give them a break because when I found out the night before that schools from Allen, Dallas, San Antonio and Lubbock were in the field, I told them so they could sleep on it.

“All of the schools in the tournament had one varsity team, but we are so deep that Coach Weddige and I could not decide what five to take, so we took two teams.”

Qualifying consisted of team games in which the five bowlers’ scores are added to create a team score. Following three team games the teams were seeded into a bracket based on their qualifying standings.

If there was any question of the Bulldogs being out of their league, it was put to rest right away as the Artesia No. 1 team opened with Payton DeMerritt rolling a 224, Brenden Depew a 227 and Tyler Romine a 245 for a team score of 1,029, second only to Allen High after one game.

A couple lanes away, the other team in orange was making noise of its own with Beau Medley opening with a 234, Kambry Collins a 209 and Jace Miles a 198 to see Artesia No. 2 roll a 954 game and find themselves in fourth place going to Game Two.

With everyone settled in, Game Two was even better for the ‘Dogs, as Team No. 1 had Depew roll a tournament-high game for the Bulldogs of 257, Romine a 213, DeMerritt a 201 and Brent McIntire a 190 for a team game of 1,035.

Artesia No. 2 made a big move, with Hagen Murph rolling a 244, Mason Jeter a 227, Medley a 189 and Miles a 188 for a team 1,015. Both Bulldog teams’ scores were enough to maintain their second and fourth positions with one qualifying game remaining.

“In bowling, after good bowlers have bowled a couple games on the same lanes, the lanes tend to transition due to the conditioner being worn off the lanes,” Clayton said. “We practice hard to understand that the game is much more than just throwing a ball at the pins, and in situations like this tournament, our kids showed their tremendous talent by adjusting on the run, and it was very impressive.”

The final game of qualifying saw both teams roll games of 984.

“They were a little disappointed, but when they don’t like averaging 197 per man, the coaches are happy,” said Clayton.

Artesia No. 1 was led by Romine (215), McIntire (201), Ayden Gomez (193) and Depew (191). Artesia No. 2 was led by Murph (227), Jeter (225) and Miles (203). With Lubbock Cooper rolling a huge third game and jumping Artesia No. 1, the Bulldogs went to double-elimination bracket play seeded third and fourth.

Bracket play was conducted using the Baker game format, in which each bowler rolls two frames per game to establish a team game score. The early rounds of the Shootout used a best-of-three format, with winners advancing and losers moving to the consolation bracket. A best-of-three Baker match is fast and intense with very little room for error, said Clayton.

Artesia No. 1 opened with a 2-0, (214-189, 182-113) victory over West Plains High School, while Artesia No. 2 dropped Game One but finished strong to defeat Lubbock Coronado 2-1 (142-154, 197-150, 225-184).

Round Two saw both Bulldog teams come away with hard-fought wins: Artesia No. 1 a 2-1 victory over Wylie (190-201, 212-189, 227-224) and Artesia No. 2 a 2-1 victory over a Texas State Champion Allen High School girls’ team (150-230, 194-192, 268-226). With only four undefeated teams moving to Round Three, the Bulldogs were matched up against the top-two seeds, as Artesia No. 1 fell to Lubbock Cooper 0-2 (182-223, 201-212) and Artesia No. 2 came up short 2-0 to number-one seed Allen High 0-2 (199-223, 174-257).

“It was amazing to see the level of competition and the intensity in the building and to see our kids never back down,” said Clayton.

The double-elimination format allowed both Bulldog teams an opportunity to continue moving forward. In Round Four, Artesia No. 1 came back with some huge games in their 2-1 win over Stevens High School (154-204, 257-177, 245-215), while Artesia No. 2 had a bye.

With only five teams remaining in the tournament, the format was switched to a one-game, single-elimination event with the winner advancing. Artesia No. 2 was up first and defeated Wylie with a strong 236-214 match. Clayton and Weddige knew that, with both teams winning, the inevitable was going to happen, and with only four teams remaining, the two Artesia High School teams were matched up in a one-game elimination match.

“We knew they would probably meet, but with the amount of talent we have, it is a win/win situation,” Clayton said.

Artesia No. 2 rode an early lead to a 185-159 victory and earned a shot at second-seed Lubbock Cooper, while Artesia No. 1 finished the tournament in fourth place. In a tight game that went down to the end, Artesia No. 2 fell 187-213, finishing the tournament in a strong third place.

“Coach Weddige and I can’t say enough good about the 10 young people that represented Artesia High School in this tournament,” said Clayton. “With most of the teams competing having never heard of Artesia High School, and some of the others wondering if these guys were really that good, I would call this performance one of the best our program has ever seen.”

Depew led the Bulldogs with games of 227-257-191 for a 675 series and was followed closely by Romine with 245-213-215 for a 673 series. Both Depew and Romine were named to the All-Tournament Team.

Other Bulldog bowlers averaging over 200 for the tournament were Murph (162-244-227-635), Medley (234-189-203-626), DeMerritt (224-201-182-607) and Jeter (152-227-225-604). All Bulldog bowlers averaged over 175, with nice games by Collins (209), McIntire (203), Miles (198) and Gomez (193).

“I would like to thank and acknowledge Coach Weddige and our young people for their drive and commitment as they finished the second half of the tournament after I had to catch a flight out of Lubbock due to a family medical situation in Pennsylvania,” Clayton said. “I had no doubt they were completely prepared and that, with Coach Weddige, they would not miss a beat. I am very proud of all of them.”

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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