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James and Julianna Spina could lead East Islip to two state bowling titles

East Islip sibling bowlers Julianna and James Spina

East Islip sibling bowlers Julianna and James Spina pose for a portrait at AMF Babylon Lanes on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. Credit: James Escher

A brother and a sister such as East Islip’s James and Julianna Spina couldn’t possibly both dream of winning a state bowling team championship in the same season.

It sounds too much like a Hollywood movie script, right?

But, in fact, James (a junior) and Julianna (a sophomore) – who were born 22 months apart – both have a chance to become state champions soon.

The two are key members of the East Islip boys and girls bowling teams which both won Suffolk team titles on Feb. 4 and will compete in the team state championship on Saturday at AMF Gates Lanes in Rochester. The sectional (county all-star) event will be Sunday.

“It’s finally hit me that I have to go upstate,” James said, “and be my best.”

Julianna added: “We haven’t really talked about [winning a state title]. We’re just hoping to do our best-ever bowling.”

The first school in state history to capture a boys and girls crown in the same season was East Islip in 2008. (Colonie of Section II did it again in 2011.)

“We have a chance,” James said, “to both win a [state] championship, which is pretty amazing.”

What also is amazing is the amount of time the Spinas put into their craft. Most afternoons and/or nights, the two – who both write left-handed and bowl right-handed – can be found bowling for East Islip High School as well as junior and youth leagues an average of 25 hours a week.

“They’re great kids. They’re always down here working hard,” said Chris Caldwell, a manager at East Islip Lanes. “I know their parents, too. They’re a great family.”

Both Spinas credit their parents, Jim and Andrea, for their love of bowling.

“It is pretty much what we do as a family,” Andrea said.

James bowled as a sixth grader in a Sunday league with his father at East Islip Lanes. How good was he back then?

“I bowled in the 50s or 60s,” laughed James, a varsity bowler since eighth grade. “Just keeping the ball on the lane was an accomplishment.”

Those days are long gone.

The 17-year-old was East Islip’s anchor (the last team member to bowl in a match) this season and averaged a 218.5, 11th best in Suffolk, but fourth best on his team.

But when it mattered most — in the county championship at Sayville Lanes — Spina rolled a team-best six-game series of 1,366 that led East Islip to its third Suffolk title the last five seasons. However, one Redmen bowler did better than James: his sister, Julianna, who rolled a 1,372.

“James is a better bowler than me, but not that day,” joked Julianna, who has bowled varsity since seventh grade.

If Julianna, who was the 12th best girls bowler in Suffolk this season (198.1 average), continues bowling the way she did at the county championship, the East Islip girls team has a chance to win its fourth state crown and first since 2014. The Redmen finished second state last season.

“They are both very emotional, very competitive kids who want to do their best to help their team,” Redmen girls coach Harold Cooley said. “They’ve both always been like that.”

Now the Spinas get a chance to show what they can do on the state’s biggest stage.

“They say you get out of it what you put into it,” boys coach Bob Cheadle said. “James and Julianna certainly have put a lot into this.”

Maybe state championship dreams can come true.

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