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Stephens reaches scoring stratosphere

December 24, 2012
By STEVE BROWNLEE - Journal Sports Writer ( , The Mining Journal

A little over a month ago, I was putting together The Mining Journal Bowlers of the Week listing and I saw Justin Stephens had shot a three-game series of 792, just missing the magic threshold of 800 that counts as a U.S. Bowling Congress honor score.

Well, at least he would be in the running for Bowler of the Week, right? Uh, not so fast. That effort was only 72 pins over his average of - get this - 240 at the time in the Friday 800 Mixed League at Superior Lanes in Marquette.

And it wasn't even the highest score the 34-year-old Negaunee resident has this year. That honor goes to a 797 bowled sometime before that, according to the league's listing of top scores.

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The 792 got knocked down one more spot three days ago after he shot 795 with a 289 finish that included the first 10 strikes in a row.

And it raised his average two pins to 245 - that's a 735 nightly average.

Now I've seen some guys carry some big averages in the area in recent years, but these kinds of numbers are just mind-boggling.

It got me thinking about what it takes to maintain these lofty averages.

Applying it to Stephens' new mark, here's some of what it computes to: if he happens to shoot an even 700 one night, he has to go out and shoot 770 to make up for that "bad" night.

If he really falls on his keister and shoots exactly 600 - that's still a 200 average for the night - it would take 870 to cover it up, or more realistically, back-to-back nights of 800 and 805.

That's just to maintain, not to add to the average at all.

I asked Stephens the other day what the secret to his success has been this year.

"I have one ball I found that's working well," he told me about a 15-pound Storm Virtual Energy reactive resin ball that he has thrown quite a bit in the past. "I tried a couple different ones, but that one matches up with the shot the best.

"It's an earlier rolling ball, not a big back-end ball. I had it resurfaced once, too. It gives me a nice even reaction, and I'm not leaving a lot of corner pins with it."

Since Stephens gets so many revolutions and so much hook on anything he throws, it's easier for him to control a ball that has more of a gradual hook. When a ball acts with a crazy, hard left turn just before it gets to the pins the way every manufacturer tries to build into 21st century balls, it's harder for him to control.

For the rest of us, that hard left turn 45 or 50 feet down the lane really helps carry all 10 pins for more strikes. For Stephens, it actually becomes too powerful and make him more liable to leave any of the pins in the back row - a 7, 8, 9 or 10.

If you ever notice on a pro bowling telecast that often the pros aren't throwing their biggest hooking ball that day, that's one of the reasons why.

Another big feat was turned in a few days ago at the Press Box Lanes at the Ojibwa Casino in Baraga when 18-year-old Dustin Juntunen shot his first 300 during the Thursday Night Mixed League.

A member of the L'Anse high school bowling team until he graduated in June, Juntunen shot his 12-striker in the middle game of a 749 series using his Storm Nano Pearl ball.

On another front, Superior Lanes has a Moonlight Scotch Doubles tournament set for New Year's Eve at 8:45 p.m. Give them a call at 225-9230 for more information.

Now let's see some impressive feats that made the Mining Journal Bowler of the Week board:

From last week, Jim Hebbard of the Miller Genuine Draft Major League on Tuesdays at Country was 159 pins over his 164 average with 651 with 228, 212 and 211.

Two more men at Country tied at 131 over - 159-average Chris Stankowski in the Friday Night Mixed with 608 and a 212 high game, and 191-average Greg Michels in the Monday Northern Electric Automotive Industrial with 704 and a 247 topper.

For the ladies, Tuesday Night Mixed leaguemates Maria Virch and Muriel Latowski went 1-2. Virch was 126 over her 176 mean with 654 and a 231 high game, while Latowski went 113 over her 132 average with 509.

The previous week, John LaFountain of the Friday Night Mixed at Country was 136 over his 182 average with 682 and a 236 high, followed by Andy Pool at plus-122 over his 200 average in the Wednesday Country Trio with 722.

For the women, Jessica Ayotte shot 126 above her 173 average with 645 and 238 high game in Country's Friday Night Mixed, while leaguemate Brenda Carlson was 108 over her 177 mean with 639 and a 228 best.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.



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