Having won the first regional team championship in the history of the boys bowling program last year, Evanston was naturally hoping for a repeat Saturday at the Glenbrook North Regional held at the River Rand Bowling Center in Des Plaines.

But having been there – and done that – the Wildkits also recognized that following the path of March Madness basketball teams, namely to simply survive and advance, is also important.

Evanston boys and girls bowling teams huddle before their matches at Classic Bowl in Morton Grove in December. Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

A late charge by coach Harold Bailey’s squad wasn’t quite good enough to catch champion New Trier High School, but the Kits earned runnerup honors as one of four teams from the regional to punch a ticket to next Saturday’s sectional in Glendale Heights.

Evanston will join individual and team qualifiers from the Lake Park, Naperville Central and Reavis regionals Saturday at the Immaculate Concepcion Catholic Sectional at Bowlero.

New Trier held off the Wildkits by a margin of 5810 to 5750 after leading by as much as 150 pins during the competition. Also qualifying for the sectional were teams from Glenbrook North (5598) and Notre Dame (5389).

Evanston’s Graham McKee heads to the line against New Trier High School at Classic Bowl in Morton Grove on Dec. 6. Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

Evanston placed five bowlers in the top 19 in the individual standings, led by runner-up Graham McKee. The junior standout fired four games with scores of 200 or better including scores of 228 and 229 in the last two games when the Kits almost overtook the Trevians. McKee’s total of 1220 trailed the eventual champion, Charlie Hayden of New Trier, by just 48 pins. 

Central Suburban League champion Clayton Krasinski couldn’t match an opening game of 246 and settled for eighth place at 1170. Also contributing to a balanced team effort for ETHS were Caleb DeSavieu, 11th place at 1145; Jonah Fogel, 16th place at 1113; and Kaelexx Oats, 19th place at 1102.

Krasinski and Oats are the only remaining squad members from last year’s title team. Now, the program’s approach has shifted slightly after making history a year ago with that regional triumph.

Evanston coaches Harold Bailey and Derrick Brown encourage each other before the match on Dec. 6. Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

“We definitely wanted to repeat,” said Bailey, “but we’ve figured out that the formula is that sometimes you have to play the long game. It was a good day for us even though it wasn’t close to our best score [as a team]. We want to be in a place where we have the confidence that this will be a habit, to do well in the regional every year, and then to expect to do well at the sectional with an eye toward making it to that final weekend” at state.

“We never feel we’re out of it in a tournament and I know we had New Trier worried at the end. We were right there with them and we pushed them as hard as we could. We still had a lot of energy going for us at the end, and if I could bottle that energy going forward, then the sky’s the limit for us.”

The Kits combined for a pinfall of 1074 in the first game Saturday – only New Trier (1046) and GBN (1027) cracked 1,000 pins in a game the rest of the day – and led the competition at the noon break after three games. And a closing effort of 965 by ETHS was a full 70 pins better than the Trevians even though it fell short.

Bailey believes the Wildkits will put their best foot forward at the sectional Saturday.

“From the results I’ve seen we’re projected sixth at the sectional [the top six teams qualify for state],” said the coach. “But we didn’t bowl our best at the regional and I know some of the other teams did. I know we’ll get some really good efforts from our guys Saturday and our goal is to get the whole team Downstate.”  

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