By Owen O'Brien
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — North Tonawanda’s John Szczerbinski and the WTT New York City KingPins needed to win one round in the Elias Cup finals to take home the hardware. After a rocky start, they quickly built some momentum and finished the afternoon with seven consecutive strikes.
After five regular season matches, the KingPins won the first overall seed and a straight path to the final match. The team met Jerome Bettis’ Motown Muscle and emerged with a 440-407 victory in two games to win the inaugural Elias Cup season.
Szczerbinski, who was often featured as the first bowler, rolled third in both matches. Being in the middle of the order appeared to favor him as he recorded two strikes and a spare over four frames.
New York City’s performance as a team was what propeled it to the victory, not any one individual bowler.
“That display right there (seven consecutive strikes) is why team bowling is extraordinary, and why it sets itself at a different level than singles bowling,” Szczerbinski said. “Putting a seven dagger like we did as a team is extraordinary and fulfilling, (and the fact we) accomplished something together like that to make sure we kept our lead is something that you ask for all the time.”
The KingPins started the match off slow, with only one strike in their first four shots. Anchor and bowling legend Pete Weber recorded one of his four strikes in the fifth frame, leading to a streak of six strikes in their next seven shots and a 202-181 lead after the first game.
The second match was similar to the start. This time around, Scott Norton was the only bowler to strike in his first shot, but the KingPins found their shots at the end yet again.
“It’s tough because we didn’t really get too much time to practice to start, so that kind of adds to the little jitterbugs and nerves you have,” Szczberbinski said.
By the time each player took its second shots, the jitterbugs were long gone.
Starting with Tommy Jones’ first strike of the afternoon, the rest of the team followed suit. Jones, Jack Jurek, Szczerbinski, Norton and Weber all struck in their final shots of the match and secured the victory.
When the match was secured, alternate Kelly Kulick came off the bench to take the final two shots, and proved she could hang with the boys — striking out in the final two rolls of the game.
The KingPins, playing in front of their owner Billy Jean King, weren’t satisfied with just making it to the finals — they wanted it all.
“Noone on our team wanted to just go there and go through the motions,” Szczerbinski said. “Each one of us had a fire and wanted to win and walk away from this inaugural Elias Cup Championship.”
Throughout the season the team has showed competitive flare — fist bumping, high fives and even the occasional crotch chop — and the unity helped put the team over the edge.
With these expressions, they have formed a trust in one another and the ability to provide and receive advice without worrying about offending the other player.
“One thing that we definitely have is trust in each other, (and being able) to communicate with one another makes it much easier to make adjustments and make better shots,” Szczerbinski said. “You put a lot of trust in what the other person says, (and making those adjustments) puts more confidence in yourself to make a good shot and to knock all 10 (pins) down.”