ABERDEEN — A program-best two Richmond Raider bowlers qualified for the individual state bowling tournament at Wednesday’s Sandhills Athletic Conference championship.
Held at the Sandhills Bowling Center, senior William White and junior James Eason both punched their tickets to the state competition later this month.
As a team, the Raiders also qualified for states thanks to a third-place finish in the team event.
It was also senior night, as White and teammate Jullian Cline were recognized for their contributions to the program.
Finishing the regular season in second place in the SAC standings with 48 points, Richmond trailed just conference-leading Pinecrest High School (65.5 points).
White, a four-year bowler for the Raiders, finished the singles competition as the No. 1 seed following a three-game series score of 664. He rolled games of 223, 263 and 178 to enter the sudden death roll-off.
He advanced to the championship round and a tie saw White come up just short in the playoff game to finish second overall.
Eason placed fifth in the singles tournament, qualifying him for states and also naming him as part of the All-Sandhills Athletic Conference team alongside White. Eason’s scores were 172, 248 and 206 for a pin total of 626.
“The cut line for top 10 is usually around 560 pins for their three-game individual total,” head coach Ralph Butler explained. “Today, 10th place was a 598. James had a 626 which would have put him in the roll-off any other year I’ve coached.
“William had a tremendous day. He’s been with me for four years and he always has a great attitude and tries to help everyone. He almost won it, but he knows we’re not finished yet. We want to make a run at the state like last year.”
The No. 2 Raiders competed in three best-of-three matches in the team tournament, starting with No. 7 Lee County High School. Richmond made quick work against the Yellow Jackets, winning 2-0 behind scores of 184-96 and 202-114.
That set Richmond up with No. 3 Scotland High School in the semifinals. Unable to get into a rhythm, the chance at a team championship was dashed in a 2-0 loss.
The Fighting Scots took the first game 160-142 and moved onto the championship match by winning the second game 195-173.
In a win-or-go-home contest with No. 5 Southern Lee High School to determine the final SAC program going to states, the Raiders overcame a slow start to earn a 2-1 victory.
Rolling their way to a third-place finish, the Raiders dropped the first game 146-180. Responding in the next two games, Richmond took control and picked up wins of 193-161 and 171-139.
Butler said he was proud of how the Raiders made the state tournament this year after graduating “five key players from last year’s success.”
He added that the team “equaled last year’s regular season accomplishments” and was able to send two bowlers to the individual state tournament for the first time in program history.
“This group has greatly exceeded my expectations,” Butler said. “The conference as a whole was more competitive than any other year I’ve done this, which makes what they’ve done even more impressive.
“We averaged 173 pins and could only get third in the team competition. That’s probably 20 pins higher than normal.”
White, Eason and the rest of the Raiders will now prepare for the state championship meet, which will be held on Friday, Feb. 17 in Aberdeen.