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History will record the fact that Evanston’s bowlers finished 24th in the field – of 24 competitors – during the preliminary team competition Friday at the Illinois High School Association state tournament in O’Fallon.

But that was just the final chapter of an epic season.

Evanston’s record-setting season ended with a thud Jan. 28 as the Wildkits put together a team score of 5363 and didn’t come close to making the cut to advancing to the finals Saturday as one of the top 12 teams.

But as ETHS head coach Harold Bailey said, “We finished as one of the top 24 teams in the state – and nobody can take that away from them!”

Seniors Andrew Bartolo (1108), John Leibforth (1093) and Isaac Clay-Barbour (1091) led the way for the Wildkits, who advanced as a full team from regional to sectional, and then from sectional to State, for the first time in program history.

Clayton Krasinski added an 809 and Justin Davis totaled an 891, both efforts coming in five games. Reserves Kaelesx Oats and Benicio Caro chipped in with single-game performances of 177 and 194, respectively.

“We just didn’t execute like we normally do, and we fell short,” said Bailey. “We just couldn’t find our rhythm. But it was still a successful run for us. It was definitely our best postseason ever, and I’m very proud of the boys, the coaching staff and all of the parents.

“We started pretty well in the fourth game – and then the lanes didn’t give them anything after the fifth frame. They were striking, and then it just stopped. The pin carry was a little light and we weren’t the only ones who struggled with that.

“They bowled their hearts out and it was a great run. I tip my hat to these seniors. This group was on it right from the beginning [to reach the goal of qualifying en masse for State] and now we’ll see if the others in the program can follow their act.”

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