Firebirds are finally believers

But not much of one.

Since the state bowling tournament began in 2001, the Firebirds have missed the cut one time. Most recently, they were state runners-up last year.

“We are very fortunate to be as successful as we have been over the years,” Fairmont coach Rex Wolfe said.

But there can be a downside to that tradition of success.

“We lost three really good seniors and, in our guys’ minds, I don’t think they felt like they had what it takes,” Wolfe said. “And, as a coach, I can tell you all day long that you do, but it doesn’t mean anything until you believe.”

The Firebirds are finally believers. Fairmont survived a late surge by defending district champion Oak Hills to claim the boys’ Division I Southwest District title at Beaver-Vu Bowl Thursday. The Highlanders cut into the Firebirds’ lead with a 265 in the final Baker game but Fairmont took the title by 26 pins, 4,444 to 4,418.

Fairmont sophomore Paul Lyons, who posted a tournament-high 739 series, acknowledges the Firebirds’ rough start this season.

“We definitely turned a corner late in the season and we started bowling as a team,” Lyons said. “We feel like we belong at the state tournament.”

Solid performances in the Baker Bash and the Greater Western Ohio Conference tournament helped the Firebirds turn it around.

“I was getting tired of waiting for them to believe,” Wolfe said with a smile. “But this is definitely the time of year to peak.”

One for the books: The Thunderbolts and Middies made history Thursday as both teams qualified to the state tournament for the first time. Northmont placed fourth while Middletown snagged the fifth and final state berth.

Middletown junior Nick Deaton led the Middies with 707 while Northmont senior Kyle Kessler — who will bowl for Wright State next year — led the Thunderbolts with a 694 series. Both earned All-District recognition.

Going solo: Centerville senior Matthew Diamond will return to state for the second time in as many seasons after posting a 712 series Thursday. Miamisburg senior Evan Berger (704) and Xenia senior Evan Adkins (687) will also compete for individual state titles.

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