CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. — Amanda Naujokas surprised even herself.
The eighth-grader from Seneca Middle School in Holbrook was just hoping to contribute to Suffolk’s team Sunday at the girls state Sectional bowling championships. She couldn’t imagine she’d be the one leading the group.
“I was just looking to win as a team,” said Naujokas, who competes for Sachem. “But I’m happy that I won individually, but I was really looking to win as a team. I wasn’t looking at it for myself.”
Naujokas led Suffolk to a second-place finish, accounting for a competition-best 1,252 (208.7 average) of the team’s 5,702 pins. Section II (Saratoga) won with 5,778. Naujokas didn’t even know she had the highest pin total.
“I was surprised when my mom told me,” she said. “I was like ‘What?’ I didn’t even know.”
Patchogue-Medford senior Brittany Arne was proud of Suffolk’s finish. “It feels amazing,’’ Arne said. “It would have been nice to get the title, but you know what, placing second isn’t bad.”
Arne, who averages 226, didn’t reach 200 until finishing with 245 and 213 in the final two games. She credited the team’s chemistry for keeping the bowlers together.
“I was down in the first half, they brought me up within the second half,” Arne said. “What we did is we got together in a group, cheered each other on and we got louder.”
The team’s closeness is apparent in their “Got Milk” rallying cry. When one of the bowlers had a slow start in a previous competition, she drank milk during the game and finished with seven straight strikes.
“It became an inside joke to us and it stuck with us ever since, and it’s never going away,” Arne said. “I’m never letting that go away.”
Renee Clark, who had a 202 in game five, added, “Ten years from now, we’ll be talking about this.”
Hicksville’s Colleen Kingsepp led Nassau’s sixth-place finish with 1,103 pins, including a 236.
Sewanhaka’s Jahnia Phillips spent Friday celebrating her Sweet 16 at home with family and friends. During her party, she had other things in mind.
“I was totally thinking about this,” said Phillips, who finished 27th with 1,075 pins. “I was ready. I was pumped. I wasn’t waiting for my Sweet 16 to end necessarily, but I was waiting to get here with my team and try our best.”