Even if it was close to home, the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill boys bowling team took a while getting comfortable during last Saturday's New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships at Strike-N-Spare Lanes in Mattydale.
But once it started finding the strike zone, the Red Devils surged into contention and nearly won it all before settling for a superb second-place finish.
Overall, VVS had a pinfall of 5,800, beaten only by Colonie (Section II), who used a strong final game to finish at 5,944, 144 pins ahead. The Red Devils held off Waverly (5,799) by just one pin for that runner-up spot.
Nervous at the start, VVS only managed 886 in the first game, dipping them into seventh place in the 12-team field, and it may have been worse were it not for Kenny Chang's 244.
Gradually, the Red Devils improved, getting to 953 in the second game and 991 in the third as Chang rolled a morning series of 667 and Collin Laguzza posted a 629. At the break, VVS stood at 2,830, third behind Colonie (2,916) and Waverly (2,849).
In the fourth game, VVS had a 966, but Waverly surged to a 1,078, the best single-game total any team had all day, to take the lead as Colonie managed 980. Then the Red Devils posted its best total in the fifth game - 1,068 - as Laguzza posted a 252 and James Neverette added a 240.
That helped VVS surge past Waverly, who slumped to an 890, and move within 35 pins of Colonie, a state championship within reach. But the Red Devils only managed 936 in the final game, far off of Colonie's total of 1,035 which put things away.
Still, Laguzza had the second-best individual total of the tournament, finishing at 1,300 after a 671 series in the afternoon. Chang took fourth with a pinfall of 1,240 as Tristan Tormey added a 1,085. Neverette, Brendan Thomas and Brad Long rounded out the squad.