Evanston Junior Graham McKee bowls at a Dec. 6 matchup at Classic Bowl in Morton Grove. He scored 1,083 pins in the Jan. 21 sectional tournament. Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

The Evanston Township High School boys bowling team staged another one of its frantic finishes Saturday at the Immaculate Conception Catholic sectional tournament.

Only this time the Wildkits came up short.

The Kits missed a couple of spare opportunities in the 10th frame of the final game and failed in their attempt to qualify for the Illinois High School Association state finals for the second straight year.

The seventh place team finish left the entire boys squad wondering “what if?” as the season came to an abrupt halt. Only the top six teams at the sectional earned the right to advance, with Reavis (6,338), Glenbrook North (6,238), Lyons (6,163), Naperville Central (6,129), Hinsdale South (6,046) and St. Ignatius (5,838) claiming those qualifying spots.

ETHS compiled a team score of 5,833 and couldn’t overcome a slow start that included a sub-par team score of just 850 in Game 3 of the six-game set. The Wildkits were led by senior Clayton Krasinski (1,262), sophomore Kaelexx Oats (1,253), junior Caleb DeSavieu (1,214), and junior Graham McKee (1,083).

Senior Jonah Fogel added a 693 in four games and junior Zac Mathews fired a 157 and a 171 in two games.

Evanston’s Caleb DeSavieu (left) and Kaelexx Oats ready for their game Dec. 6 against New Trier High School. Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

After leap-frogging three teams in the regional tournament field on their way to a runner-up finish, the Wildkits were in that situation again Saturday with several teams still in the hunt for the final qualifying berths.

But the chase ended in that 10th frame.

“One mark. That’s all it took,” ETHS head coach Harold Bailey said. “I knew we had the kind of team that was capable of running those other teams down, but you don’t want to have to do that two weeks in a row. You have to take care of business in the first half [first three games] too.

“It took a Herculean effort for us to come back from where we were. It’s just so heartbreaking. One more spare, one more strike – and we’re still playing.”

Evanston’s Caleb DeSavieu cleans the oils off his bowling ball at a Dec. 6 contest at Classic Bowl in Morton Grove. On Jan. 21, he scored 1,214 pins in the sectional tournament. Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

Evanston closed the deficit to just about 40 pins midway through Game 5 and there was no doubt by anyone wearing the Orange and Blue that State was within reach. By that time, the Kits had surpassed the eventual eighth-place finisher, Glenbard North. But lurking in the next lane was St. Ignatius, which used a 268 by Ryan Allen and a 256 by Manny Padilla to provide the qualifying edge.

The entire Evanston squad struggled in Game 3, with only Oats at 198 approaching his usual production on the season.

“We haven’t bowled down in the 800s in at least two months,” Bailey pointed out. “That’s the one game that put us in a hole, and then the chase was on. It’s just unfortunate that we came to the end of the yellow brick road.

“It was a good, hard fought season for us and I’m happy with all they’ve done. The coaching staff did a great job of keeping them focused and I don’t know if there’s any other team capable of chasing like we did. We have a good crop of guys coming back next year and it will depend on what they do in the off-season when it comes to things like lessons, travel bowling and equipment. You have to invest in your game.”

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