By Jason Maholy
Sitting in third place after a red-hot opening day at the IHSA state tournament, Richards was in prime position to top its ninth-place finish from a season ago.
Led by sophomore Danny LaBonte’s fourth-place individual performance, the Bulldogs did just that, concluding a second straight trip to the state finals with the best finish in program history. Richards totaled 12,491 pins over the two-day, 12-game tourney to place fifth, 73 pins behind fourth-place St. Patrick.
The Bulldogs’ previous best team finish was ninth, which they accomplished last season and in 2011-12.
St. Charles East (12,836) took the team title. Vernon Hills (12,677) placed second and Minooka (12,663) was third.
LaBonte rolled a 12-game total of 2,753, obliterating his score at state in 2018-19, when he rolled a 2,551 and finished 22nd.
Ethan Pash, a sophomore from Harlem, rode a stellar first day to the individual title.
Pash opened the tourney with an 832 series that included games of 287 and 289 and finished with a two-day total of 2,811. Lincoln-Way Central senior Alex Nolan and Minooka sophomore Efrain Soto tied for second with 2,772 pins.
Connor Pula, a sophomore from Evergreen Park, finished 18th at state with a pinfall of 2,596. Pula placed second at the Lockport Sectional with 1,389, just 18 pins out of the top spot.
Senior Matt LaBonte, Danny’s brother, rolled a 2,531 with a high of 236 to finish in 31st place, one season after finishing 14th. Also contributing to the program’s bar-setting performance were junior Nick Schopper (2,446, high 243), who rolled all 12 games after competing in only two games at state as sophomore; senior Owen Szarley (2,389, high 256) and junior Blake Attig (2,205 in five games, team-high 257).
Richards opened the finals with a first-day total of 6,348. Danny LaBonte led the way with six-game total of 1,423 and was in third place in the individual standings.
LaBonte’s high game was 250, but what may have been more impressive was that his low game was 224, which he rolled twice. His series on Day 1 were 719 and 704.
They Bulldogs were undefeated (15-0) in dual meets and won the South Suburban Red Conference tournament, then won the Brooks Regional crown and placed second of 16 teams at the Lockport Sectional.