SYRACUSE — As Joseph Zagari picked up his ball for the final time in Game 1 of Friday’s state Division I boys bowling championship, a hush went over the crowd.
The East Islip sophomore began the day with 11 consecutive strikes and needed just one more to complete a perfect 300.
“I was thinking like it was the first shot of a brand-new game,” Zagari said. “I really did not have any pressure. I just tried to hit my mark like I was doing all game long.”
The lefthander approached the lane for his final shot, wound up and released the ball down the left side. The ball curved back to the middle and connected with the head pin, as all 10 pins crumbled to the floor at Strike 'N Spare Lanes.
Zagari collected the 300 and finished with a 1,288 six-game series to help lead the Redmen to a third-place finish at the state championship with a total score of 6,157. Fairport finished first (6,497) and Liverpool was second (6,191).
“I never thought I would bring myself to this point,” Zagari said. “It hasn’t been easy to get to where I am, but I have pushed through and I’m here now doing something I love.”
In his final appearance with East Islip, Aaron Rice threw the highest series of the championship with a 1,436 six-game total. He rolled a 258 in Game 3 and averaged 239.33 for the tournament.
“It means a lot to have finished off this year strong like that,” said Rice, who led Long Island with a 237.15 average. “Going out with a bang in the states is an incredible feeling.”
In Bellmore-Merrick’s first appearance at the state championship since 1996, the team placed seventh with 5,942 total pins.
Mepham's Donovan Moran led the way with a 234 in Game 2 of a 1,223 series. Nicholas Breidenbach added a 257 in the second game of a 1,222 series, and Sam Farber (Calhoun) bowled a 264 in Game 4 of a 1,210 series.
“I am losing three solid seniors,” Bellmore-Merrick coach Joe Bianca said of the trio. “They taught me a lot about the game. They are so committed and the friendship they have is unbelievable.”
Although the result wasn’t quite what they were hoping for, Moran was proud of how his team persevered.
“We started our season kind of rocky, but we came back won our conference, then won the counties and made it to states,” Moran said. “I’m going to remember the people I bowled with the last four years, and the friendships I developed. When it’s you and the team, you can’t beat that.”