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East Islip's Natalie Mavrich felt Harold Cooley Jr.'s presence at Suffolk girls bowling tournament

East Islip's Natalie Mavrich rolled a high game

East Islip's Natalie Mavrich rolled a high game of 279 at the Suffolk girls bowling championships at Bowlero Sayville. Credit: Pablo Garcia Corradi

It wasn’t cold inside Bowlero Sayville on Saturday.

But East Islip’s Natalie Mavrich certainly felt something unique throughout the Suffolk girls bowling championships.

"I got chills so many times today," she said.

The senior, her teammates, some competitors, and many Suffolk girls bowling coaches had a similar experience on Saturday. East Islip coach Harold C. Cooley, Jr. — who started the program in 1985 — died last Dec. 18.

"I know he was looking down on us," said an emotional Mavrich, with tears in her eyes. "It was a great feeling knowing he was there. We did it for him."

The senior exploded in Game 1 with nine straight strikes en route to a 279, and added games of 259, 228, 203, 196, and 171 as East Islip led wire-to-wire to capture its fourth Suffolk crown in six seasons.

Kailyn Bloch had a six-game series of 1,265. Eighth-grader Dakota Collins added a 1,224. Kristy Murphy rolled a 1,170 and Mia Lembo added a 1,115.

Defending champ Smithtown/Kings Park — which didn’t even win their respective league in the regular season — qualified for the county championship as a wild card and placed second overall.

"My girls left everything they had on those lanes," said coach Glenn Roper, who had worked with Cooley on two state sectional teams. "If we were going to lose to anyone I’m O.K. that it was to [East Islip]."

Comseowgue’s Laura Clark had the top overall series with a 1,365. Mavrich, who was second with a 1,336, had the top game overall. Sachem’s Emily Kulkarni had the third-best series (1,335).

But the event belonged to East Islip, which somehow has flourished throughout the past two-plus months since Cooley’s passing.

Fittingly, Harold Cooley III — the Commack girls coach — handed out trophies, including the championship plaque to East Islip, a program his father started 37 years ago.

"I know he’s looking down smiling," Harold III said, "and he’s saying, ‘Good job.’ "

East Islip has won 14 county titles in girls bowling overall, but its first under rookie coach Robert Sconone. He had Sonny Casale — his godfather and the North Babylon boys coach — assist him on Saturday. (In a touching moment, the EI girls team wouldn’t take a team championship picture without Casale.)

"I’ve just tried to continue the tradition and work ethic that coach Cooley brought to this program," Sconone said. "I love doing this and I love these girls. They wanted to do this for him, and it’s just awesome. It really is."

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