WICHITA — For Great Bend High School’s bowling teams, the Great Plains High School Invitational is a marquee event each season.
On Saturday at Northrock Lanes, it became the biggest win for the Lady Panthers so far in the 2014 season.
It is the best finish ever for the Great Bend girls, who have taken third at the invite but have never made it to the championship match.
The Panthers topped their previous best as well, claiming second place.
“The bowling alley where this is held sends out the oil patterns that are going to be on the lanes, so we were able to prepare this week in practice,” GBHS head coach Mike Perry said. “I told them coming into this just to go out and have fun. I think it was good for us to get out of Great Bend and just focus on the game.”
The invite is separated into three parts.
“It starts in the morning with three regular games, and they take the top five series,” Perry said. “Then they play 12 Baker’s games and add the total from the morning’s games to find the seedings.
“They take the top eight teams to head-to-head matches.”
The Lady Panthers entered bracket-play as the fourth seed with a total of 4,431 pins. El Dorado, Campus and Washburn Rural were the top 3 seeds, respectively.
“The first thing, it’s just such a long day,” Perry said. “The boys start at 9 a.m. and the girls follow right behind them. There were 24 girls teams and 24 boys teams, so it goes a long time. Then there’s lunch, and then the Baker’s games. All day long, you’re competing against yourself.
“Then, if you’re in the top eight, all of a sudden you’re in head-to-head matches. You have to change your mindset because you’re up against yourself and now somebody else.”
Great Bend’s girls beat fifth-seeded McPherson in the first round, top-seeded El Dorado in the semifinal round and Wichita Northwest in the championship match.
The Lady Panthers were led by Miranda Hejny, who finished in third place as an individual at 586.
The GBHS girls also won the Sportsmanship Award for the tournament.
“Abby Rose is our spark plug, she’s the one that makes this team go,” Perry said. “We have Miranda Hejny as the anchor and team captain. It’s a lot of fun as a coach to just sit back and watch them get rolling.”
The Panthers were the No. 3 seed after the first two rounds of play, totaling 4,974 pins.
Washburn Rural was the No. 1 seed, and Wichita Northwest was the No. 2 seed.
Great Bend’s boys beat Wichita Heights in the first round, and Garden City in the semifinal match before falling to McPherson in the title match.
“We have a lot of youth on our boys’ team,” Perry said. “We were hoping to have a good day and finish in the top eight. We ended up second, which far exceeded our expectations. We had one senior on the team, so we were real young. It was just a good day.”
Aaron Shumate was the Panthers’ top individual bowler, tying for 16th place at 570.
Both teams are at home for the first time this season today. Great Bend hosts Liberal and Wichita Collegiate at Walnut Bowl, starting at 2:30 p.m.
— Kevin Price