Chicago Christian’s Matt McCarthy became the first Knights’ male bowler to qualify for state.
Three-sport athlete Matt McCarthy became the first male bowler in Chicago Christian history to qualify for the Illinois High School Association state tournament and will join junior Zach McCormick of Evergreen Park and sophomore Matt LaBonte of Richards at the event, which takes place Friday and Saturday at St. Clair Bowl in O’Fallon.
McCarthy, who was an all-conference football player in the fall and was on the Knights’ baseball team that finished third in the state in Class 2A in the spring, nearly won the sectional title as he led the field at Laraway Lanes in New Lenox on Saturday after three games with a 723 but slipped in the fifth game with a 159 to finish second with a 1,352. Lincoln-Way Central’s Alex Nolan was the champ with a 1,364.
“It was my third time making it to sectionals and it was my last chance to go to state,” he said. “I figured I shouldn’t be nervous because I’ve been there before. I was bowling pretty well the whole year. I’ve been practicing my butt off the whole time. So I felt pretty confident about my chances.’’
Knights coach Andy Andrew said his daughter, Brianna, was the first girl to qualify for state at the school as she made it down in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Andrew’s advice to McCarthy is to start out strong like he did Saturday.
“Like with the girls tournament, the place is packed and there are going to be a lot of good bowlers,” Andrew said. “But after they bowl six games, there is a cut. They eliminate half the teams and they eliminate a boatload of individuals. So Friday is pretty intense. If you don’t bowl well in the morning, you could pretty much be done.’’
McCormick finished fourth with a 1,320 and earned a trip to O’Fallon for the first time. The junior recalled 2016 state qualifier (who finished 15th in the state), 2017 regional champion and teammate Shaun Quinn missing on a second straight trip to state and knew how tough it was to get to this plateau.
“It means a heck of a lot to me,” he said. “I’m just happy to get there and will be happy with whatever I do. I knew I was in the running and I just killed it at the end. I threw a 258 in the last game (on Saturday) and medaled with it.”
LaBonte has state experience. Two years ago, he won the Illinois Elementary School Association state championship and this is his first foray into the IHSA finals.
He rolled a 1,239 Saturday and earned the final qualifying slot by four pins.
“I just picked up my spares and made sure I got my balls to the pocket. It’s a hard bowling alley, and I was just listening to coach (Kari Vanderjack).
“It (finding out he made the cut for state) was very overwhelming. I have a lot of gratitude to get the results for how hard I’ve worked. It’s a very big accomplishment. I didn’t make it last year, so I’m looking forward to going up against the tough competition.”
One of the biggest surprises in the area is that Sandburg, a team that qualified for state three years in a row, did not make the cut, nor did talented Eagles junior Cameron Crowe, who finished 39th in the state as a freshman and 16th as a sophomore.
–Randy Whalen contributed to this report