After a too-close-for-comfort first game win by a mere four pins, Alex Cruz had a message for his Kellenberg bowling teammates.

“I encouraged them because it was a good team win,” Cruz said. “But I reminded them that we left a lot of spares out there. I just told everyone, ‘Calm down and bowl like we usually do.’ ”

The message was delivered and the results followed. Cruz, a senior captain, rolled a 246 in the second game of a 656 series to lead host Kellenberg in a 530-526, 588-478, 460-470 CHSAA win against St. Anthony’s at Garden City Bowl on Monday.

Kellenberg (7-1) was impressive and won the second game by 110 points. St. Anthony’s won the third game by 10 points to salvage a point.

“During that second game I was excited,” Cruz said. “I said, ‘Here we go. Let’s put up some big numbers and see how good we can actually bowl.’ ”

Cruz has been putting up big numbers all season for the Firebirds with a team-best 206 average.

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“I try to inspire my teammates,” the 17-year-old said. “I want them to play the best they can play and lead by example.”

That approach certainly has worked. Brandon Wainwright added a 607 series in the win and fellow senior Andrew Murdolo had a 357 in a two-game series.

“We’ve been doing very well this year,” Kellenberg coach Brian Farrell said. “We’ve been playing well as a team, and Alex’s senior leadership has been outstanding.”

But the Firebirds are far from a one-man show.

“Brandon is basically a second captain,” Cruz said. “He has real good knowledge of the game.”

That knowledge and leadership will be important the next two weeks as Kellenberg gets to the heart of its season. The Firebirds have an important road match against first-place and unbeaten Chaminade on Jan. 24 at Sheridan Lanes in Mineola. Chaminade has won five straight CHSAA titles.

“I love big matches and high pressure,” said Cruz, who lives in Hicksville. “I thrive in the tenth frame when we need a couple of pins. That’s where I live. I love that.”