BREWER — USA East made a late surge, but it wasn’t enough to earn a bye in the World Team Candlepin Bowling Tournament at Bangor-Brewer Bowling Lanes.
“We wanted first, obviously,” said Nate Nealey of Westbrook. “If you get first, you get [two] byes and go right to the semis.”
Halifax Fairlanes of Nova Scotia held onto the top seed, barely. It finished the Pepsi-Cola Division with a 65-23 record compared to USA East’s 64-24 mark.
“USA East, they brought it to us,” said Halifax Fairlanes bowler Tim Carrigan. “That’s the only match we lost all week.”
USA East faced the Holiday Inn Division’s fifth-ranked team, Crazy Train of Massachusetts, in the first playoff round. USA East won 1,907-1,765.
Moncton Fairlanes/Storms (Nova Scotia) defeated Handi’s Rebels (New Brunswick) 1,806-1,758. MacLaughlin Truck and Trailer (Nova Scotia) beat Rick’s Pallets (Nova Scotia) 1,950-1,817 and Borrelli’s (Mass.) defeated Fenway Painters (Mass.) 1,870-1,805.
USA East will face Moncton Fairlanes/Storms in the quarterfinals today while MacLaughlin T&T will face Borrelli’s. The matches start at 9 a.m. The semifinals will start at 11:30 a.m. and the final match is at 2 p.m.
“We’re looking good,” said Auburn’s Mark Smith, who bowls on USA East. “We have a lot of talent on the team this year. We just have to make it happen now.”
This is Smith’s 10th WTCB tournament appearance and fourth in a row.
Nealey agreed with his teammate.
“I like our chances,” Nealey said. “We have a really strong team right now.”
Chemistry is a strong factor in producing good results.
“These are some awesome guys,” said Chris Sargent of Haverhill, Mass. “I love bowling with them. We all get along great.”
“I think [we do well] because of the chemistry we all have together. We just knew that we’d bowl well together. That’s what it takes to win,” added Sargent. He said that the team has three bowlers from Massa-chusetts with the rest from Maine.
Though USA East is confident, it won’t take any team for granted.
“It’s never easy because any team here can take your socks off,” said Mike Morgan of South Boston, Mass.
Morgan got his team off on the right foot by throwing a strike on the first ball of the playoffs against Crazy Train. He did the same to start the second game.
While USA East and seven other teams were busy trying to advance in the tournament, two other teams were resting.
Halifax Fairlanes and Maria’s Sub of Massachusetts clinched the top seeds in their divisions and earned byes to the semifinals.
“We bowled all week to get to number one,” said Rich Bognanno of North Attleboro, Mass., who added that Maria’s Sub’s bowlers have been on the same team for 14 straight years. “We wanted the bye. We didn’t want to bowl any extra.”
The time off has proven crucial to previous champions.
“If you look at the past winners from the last 25 years, teams who get the bye, most of them won,” said Maria’s Sub bowler Bob Whitcomb of Halifax, Mass.
“We’ll watch the first round today, rest up tonight, then we’re ready to go for the title,” Whitcomb said.
Halifax Fairlanes’ Carrigan agreed with the importance of having the bye.
“The people who have to bowl through … it’s a lot more work [and] it’s a lot more stress,” said Halifax, Nova Sco-tia’s Carrigan. “With the com-petition level, everything mul-tiplies at the same time. It just never lets up.
“We were very fortunate. We peaked at the right time and bowled well.”