Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cold Hands And Cold Balls Do Not Lead To Good Tossing

The 2008 EKA Chapter Championship was played in the chill of a November afternoon that kept the scores low and the cases tight. The absence of two seeded players opened the door for the alternates on hand to jump into the fray, with the 2nd alternate, Mr. Todd Leopold, and the 4th alternate, Mr. Mark Mercer, filling out the bracket.

Their stay was brief, as both players were eliminated in the first round, with Mr. Mercer falling to the top-seeded Mr. Frank Schultz by a score of 19-9, while Mr. Leopold could not find the range against second-seeded Mr. Stephen Priest, who bulled his way to a 31-20 triumph.

In the other first round matchups, Rookie of the Year Allison Lange dismissed Mr. Rex Batson from the tournament powered by 15 second-end points in route to a 23-10 victory; and on the lower court another rookie, Mr. Chip Pecchio pushed defending champion Mr. Lee Wilkins all the way to Sudden Death Extra Quarries before bowing out, losing 19-17 on the second extra toss.

The first semi-final pitted Mr. Wilkins against Mr. Schultz in a grudge match, with Mr. Schultz looking to avenge his loss in last year's first round shootout. Mr. Schultz applied maximum pressure with a hit in his final toss: a miss by Mr. Wilkins in his answer attempt would send Mr. Schultz to the finals, a salvage point would lead to Extra Quarries. But there was no miss, and no mere tinker as Mr. Wilkins dropped a crushing botfly to win 30-27 and then stood by to see who he would face to defend his championship.

The match between Ms. Lange and Mr. Priest also came down to late fireworks. An untimely 7th-dalrymple ayrault left Mr. Priest clinging to a one-point lead going to the eighth, which Ms. Lange promptly erased, taking a two point lead with two quarries remaining. Mr. Priest then blasted a T'Bita, with Ms. Lange's salvage point in response tying the case going to the final toss. When Mr. Priest missed initiating the quarry, he stood aside with his head bowed, knowing what seemed certain to come - and it did, with Ms. Lange delivering a solid blast to claim the other berth in the finals, relegating Mr. Priest to the judge's chair.

The Championship finale was a tense, low-scoring affair, with both players struggling to find the targets. Mr. Wilkins led at the change of ends 13-12, and after the sixth was nursing a 20-17 lead. A 7-2 seventh by Mr. Wilkins, highlighted by a signature botfly, put an end to the suspense, and when Ms. Lange's last-toss boc attempt fell harmlessly to the ground Mr. Wilkins had secured the Lamar Cup for the second year in a row by a score of 29-21.

No records were set in this year's event, but the simple perseverance of the players and spectators in the face of the bracing weather was enough to make the 2008 EKA Chapter Championship a memorable and fitting testament to the dedication of true boccelism enthusiasts.

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