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Pilots hope to make a run at another regional

WARREN, Mich. — There are a lot of uncertainties for the De La Salle bowling team heading into regional play this weekend at Skore Lanes in Taylor.

But one thing is certain. Only one team enters this year's postseason tournament as a two-time defending champion. And that's the Pilots.

Winners of the last two Division 1 regional tournaments hosted by Woodhaven, De La Salle faces a few challenges as it aims to claim a third-consecutive championship. For one, the field is littered with teams the Pilots aren't all that familiar with.

"We don't see the teams that bowl in this region all that often," DLS head coach Jay Lang said. "We don't see Woodhaven. We don't see Cousino a whole lot. We do see U-D (Jesuit). So I really have no clue."

A year ago, De La Salle rolled the high Baker game (246) and individual game (1,040) en enroute to winning the regional by nearly 100 pins over Woodhaven. Taylor also qualified for states by finishing third. Both schools are back this year, as are fellow Macomb County schools Cousino and Warren-Mott. Woodhaven finished seventh at the Wayne County Tournament back in January, while U-D Jesuit was eighth.

With a lack of familiarity with the competition, Lang said his team's focus will be on bowling its own game.

"That's what I stress going into Catholic League and regionals," the coach said. "Don't look around, that's my job. We know what we have to do. Let's limit our mistakes and be a better spare-shooting team. The best spare-shooting team usually wins the region. That was us for the last two years. 

"Spares have not been our strong suit this year sometimes, but hopefully we're peaking at the right time. I think we'll be OK."

This year's regional, hosted by Woodhaven, will be bowled at Skore Lanes, something new to all the participating teams.

"We don't know it very well," said Lang, who noted that the last time (De La Salle) bowled there was in either 2011 or 2012. "The talk after the men's and women's city tournaments were held there, nobody likes the place. (Our) expectations have to be tempered."

The Pilots have been bowling better of late. The team finished third at the Bowl Swami Team Challenge earlier this month and were runners-up at the Catholic League Championships this past weekend. Seniors Salvatore Aiello and Alexander Thorn recently earned All-Catholic honors and junior Jack Gohlke was named all-league.

The top three teams at Friday's team event qualify for the Division 1 Finals, which will be held at Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park on March 6-7. On Saturday, bowlers will return to Skore for the individual competition. The Top 10 qualify for state competition the following week. A year ago, Aiello and Gohlke finished just outside the Top 10 at the regional. Thorn and junior Rafe Dewar also competed for the Pilots.

"We plan our tournament schedule, our practice schedule, things like that so we peak at the right time," Land said. "It's been a formula that's worked over the past two or three years. I always want to get them peaking at this time of the season. I think we're close. A lot of guys are feeling good right now. They are excited. They want to be here."

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