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Exciting performances highlighted PIlots bowling season

WARREN, Mich. — It's the little stories that can tell the tale of a season.

And for De La Salle Collegiate bowling coach Jay Lang, the stories really added up this season for his Pilot bowlers.

One he likes to tell came at the Division 1 Individual Finals, and it involved one of his best seniors, Alexander Thorn

"Alex's story was one of the most incredible in the building," Lang said. "I mean, he shoots a 122 in Game 3 and now he's over 100 pins out with three to go. Talking about having to talk a kid off the ledge. He's got three games to bowl and he's like, 'Well, that was fun.' "

Lang, who just wrapped up his 10th season leading the Pilots, has seen almost everything in his time around the high school game. But what Thorn was about to pull off topped the list.

"Then he shoots (227) followed by a 268 in Game 5. He goes from 100 pins out in what had to be 40th place (of 60 bowlers) to being back inside the cut," Lang said. "Talk about a roller coaster. I'm looking at (assistant coach Andrew Burke) and he's like, 'You talk him off the ledge.' I just had to keep him involved."

Thorn went on to qualify 14th entering match play. He fell to the eventual champion, Izaac Goergen of Midland, in the round of 16. Thorn and fellow senior Salvatore Aiello both qualified for states this year, capping off a stellar career for both. 

"To have two individuals make it to states and to have Alex make the finals and make all-state and Sal to finish just a few spots away from qualifying for the finals, that was pretty impressive for those two seniors," Lang said. 

As a team, De La Salle had its share of ups and downs this past season. But as the season progressed, the Pilots seemed to find a groove, finishing third out of 20 teams at the Bakers Dozen Challenge, reaching the round of 16 at the Macomb County Championship, making the quarterfinals at the Tri-County Invitational and the semifinals of the Bowl Swami Team Challenge. De La Salle finished runner-up in both the regular season and tournament portions of the Catholic League. And it went on to finish fifth among 16 teams at the Division 1 team regional.

"We made some top fours at some pretty nice tournaments," Lang said. "We had a chance to win those matches, too, but we just came up a little short. We had a good team, but sometimes we just had a little trouble getting over that hump. This was a great group of kids. They all got along very well."

The seven-man roster consisted of four seniors and three juniors. Each had an important role on the team. Each of the four seniors will be missed. Aiello was a four-year letter winner, the first Lang has coached at De La Salle. Here's what Lang had to say about his seven varsity bowlers:

  • Salvatore Aiello … "As a freshman, he was a big, strong kid and he threw well. He continued to grow and he got better and better every year. That was pretty awesome to watch."
  • Alexander Thorn … "Last year, his first on varsity, I think he was a little timid, a little shy. This year, especially towards the end of the year, he gained so much confidence and he genuinely got excited. When he threw a strike, he got pumped up. That was something I never expected from him."
  • Luke Childs and Andrew Rusu … "If you would have told me these two guys, when they were freshmen or sophomores, that they were going to be varsity bowlers, I would have told you, no. I didn't see it happening. But these two worked harder than any kids I've seen. They worked hard at practice for me, but they went out and got outside lessons. They put in so much work to get to varsity."
  • Jack Gohlke … "When he was on, he was definitely a leader. He likes to lead, he wants to be a leader. He definitely works on (his game) and he wants to get better. He wants to go to college. He's one of my favorites when it comes to bowling because he wants to be there. He wants to be bowling."
  • Rafe Dewar … "He put the work in and it paid off, especially at the end of the year when we needed him the most."
  • Lorance Morrison … "He's another one who works hard and wants to be there. I see a lot of good things for him next year." 

For his efforts, Thorn earned second-team all-state honors from the Michigan High School Interscholastic Bowling Coaches' Association as well as second-team all-county honors. Both Thorn and Aiello were named All-Catholic this season. Gohlke earned all-league honors. Thorn, Aiello, Gohlke, and Rusu all averaged better than 200 in league play.

"It's one of the higher team averages we've had in a long time," Lang said. "It's not often you have four guys shoot 200 or better. We were clearly the second-best team in the league this year."

With Gohlke, Dewar, and Morrison leading the way next year — as well as a slew of talented underclassmen on the JV squads — Lang is optimistic about what he has coming back next year.

"I fully expect Gohlke to step into that anchor role next year," the coach said. "Rafe and Lorance gained some great experience this year. I think we're going to have a good squad next year. We've got a lot of good kids returning."

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