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Dallas Strikers, Philadelphia Hitmen advance to PBA League Semifinal Round


The two-time defending champion Shipyard Dallas Strikers will carry their bid to become the first three-time OceanView at Falmouth PBA League Elias Cup champion into the semifinal round after a thrilling extra frame victory over the GEICO NYC WTT KingPins, but standing in the way will be a determined Sysco Philadelphia Hitmen team that has its collective eyes focused on winning its first Elias Cup.

The third and fourth best-of-two-game quarterfinal rounds matches, which are part of the 2018 Go Bowling! PBA Tour schedule, were contested at Bayside Bowl in Portland, Maine, and aired Sunday on ESPN.

Dallas lived up to its nickname, roaring out of the gate with a string of six strikes by Bill O’Neill, Rhino Page (featured photo), Kyle Sherman (left), Tommy Jones and player-manager Norm Duke to build a 40-pin lead after five frames. The KingPins, fired up by PBA Hall of Famer Pete Weber (right), rallied with a late string of four strikes, but couldn’t overcome Dallas’ early lead.

With a 241-224 victory in hand, Dallas looked like it was going to run away with a two-game sweep, starting game two with four strikes. But Duke (pictured) left a 3-10 split in the fifth frame, which he converted, but the KingPins got on a roll while the Strikers stumbled late in the game, losing to New York City, 237-208, to force the first one-ball sudden-death roll-off of the 2018 competition.

The matter was settled quickly when KingPins’ anchor Marshall Kent (right) left a ringing 10 pin, and Duke, a PBA Hall of Famer and 38-time PBA Tour champion, struck.

“We had them; we started with four in a row and I made about the worst shot you can possibly make (in the fifth frame of game two),” Duke said, “and then it was a series of mistakes. But that’s the thing about winning game one. You’re still in it. In this format, unless you’re dominant and sweep, it’s going to come down to one ball and we all know it.

“Nobody wants it, really,” he added. “Even if you’re on the right lane. Even if you’re of sound mind. You grab the ball and your legs start shaking. You saw me balk. It was partly because (the down lane camera man) scooted his chair, but it also gave me a chance to come back and regroup because my legs were noodles.<

“That’s pressure right there. I’ve been in that situation many times but I was scared out of my wits. You’re kinda bowling in a state of shock. It wasn’t my best shot, but I knew off my hand it was really close. I knew it was nine or better, and if I carried the 10, we win the match. And we did.”

In the final quarterfinal match, the Philadelphia Hitmen used a steady approach with critical clutch shots to topple the hometown Portland Lumberjacks, 224-222, in the opening game and easily won game two, 209-157, when Portland ran into all kinds of problems, throwing only two strikes along with a split and two missed spares.

The Hitmen got a string of five strikes from no. five bowler Tom Smallwood, Ronnie Russell (right), Chris Loschetter, Dom Barrett and Matt Sanders to turn the match into a rout.

“It was nip-and-tuck for the first match but my guys bowled as well today, if not better, than they did in the seeding tournament,” said Philadelphia manager Jason Couch. “We don’t have a great history in this event. We’ve struggled from time to time, and this is the third time in four years we’ve drawn the home team, which makes for a tough environment. But I’m proud of the way my guys bowled today.

“Matt Sanders (left) is our new guy,” Couch said of the PBA’s 2017 Rookie of the Year. “I don’t know him really well, but I watched him bowl all week and he’s the real deal. I have no problem putting him in the five hole, or the four hole. He’s a good player.

“Tom Smallwood (right)? He’s a late bloomer, but he’s been money for me,” Couch added. “He seems to thrive in this environment when you wouldn’t think he would. He’s a quiet guy but he never has a problem taking on the responsibility.”

In the first semifinal round match that will air on ESPN on Sunday, May 6, at 1 p.m. ET, the Barbasol Motown Muscle, who have never won the Elias Cup, will meet the two-time past champion Go Bowling! Silver Lake Atom Splitters. The second semifinal will involve the Dallas Strikers and the Philadelphia Hitmen, who also have never won the Elias Cup.

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Oceanview at Falmouth PBA League – Quarterfinal Results

Single-elimination, best-of-two-game Baker format

Quarterfinal Match Three:
Shipyard Dallas Strikers: (Bill O’Neill, Rhino Page, Kyle Sherman, Tommy Jones, Norm Duke) def. GEICO NYC WTT KingPins (Sam Cooley, Anthony Pepe, Pete Weber, BJ Moore, Marshall Kent), 241-224, 208-237, 10-9 in one-ball roll-off.

Quarterfinal Match Four:
Sysco Philadelphia Hitmen (Ronnie Russell, Chris Loschetter, Dom Barrett, Tom Smallwood, Matt Sanders) def. Port Property Management Portland Lumberjacks (Ryan Ciminelli, Jojoe Yannaphon, DJ Archer, Kyle Troup, Wes Malott), 224-222, 209-157.

Oceanview at Falmouth PBA League ESPN Schedule

Sunday, May 6, 2018, 1 p.m. ET
Semifinal Match One:
Barbasol Motown Muscle (Josh Blanchard, Shota Kawazoe, Francois Lavoie, Anthony Simonsen, EJ Tackett) vs. Go Bowling! Silver Lake Atom Splitters (Jesper Svensson, Dick Allen, AJ Johnson, Tom Daugherty, Chris Barnes).

Semifinal Match Two:
Shipyard Dallas Strikers: (Bill O’Neill, Rhino Page, Kyle Sherman, Tommy Jones, Norm Duke) vs. Sysco Philadelphia Hitmen (Ronnie Russell, Chris Loschetter, Dom Barrett, Tom Smallwood, Matt Sanders).

Sunday, May 13, 1 p.m. ET
Elias Cup championship finals (best of two games, Baker format team games; one-ball sudden-death roll-off will decide any ties)

Herbert Bickel

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