LINCOLN — Another year, another title.
The Hastings High boys bowling team captured its second straight state championship and third in four years, defeating Aurora 3-0 (195-149, 178-159, 159-126) in the Class B finals Sunday afternoon at Sun Valley Lanes.
But this one was extra emotional for the Tigers.
The team dedicated the state tournament to former HHS bowler Matt Starkey and his family after the Tuesday death of Matt's 22-year-old sister Annie Starkey, who had hypoxic encephalopathy and cerebral palsy.
Matt, a senior at HHS, was on the state championship team last year but didn't go out for bowling this year so he could focus on academics. He and his family continued to support the team. Matt wasn't able to make it Sunday because of his sister's death, but he was at the Tigers' district competition two weeks earlier.
"He's been a big support," HHS senior bowler Riley Sadd said. "He's been on our team three years and this year he wanted to focus on academics, and we supported that. He's still part of our team.
"When we got that news, we figured he's supported us, we've got to support him. He's our eighth man in the crowd."
The seven members of the team and two coaches all wore pink wristbands with "STARKEY" written on them over the weekend.
Sadd held a rose in one hand and the ball in the other as he bowled the final frame of the tournament, dropping the rose to the ground after the ball rolled down the lane. The rest of the team then joined Sadd, made a circle and took a knee.
"It's hard to explain. I think all of us had a spiritual moment there," senior Wyatt Godtel said. "We could feel Matt. He was there with us."
Joining Sadd and Godtel in winning a state championship were fellow seniors Chandler Hysell, and Wyatt Davis, junior Nick Christen and freshmen Marcel Mullen and Bladyn Hogan.
"It means a lot to go back to back, and to make sure it is in your senior year," Sadd said. "It's definitely the way we wanted to go out."
Hastings had a number of bowlers place in the top 10 individually in Class B, led by Godtel's third-place finish with a 558. Sadd was fourth with a 557, Hogan fifth with a 554, Davis seventh with a 544 and Hysell 10th with a 526.
Hastings has been in the finals many times over the last decade, but this is the school's first back-to-back titles.
"We've never done it," HHS coach Butch Hogan said. "To be in the TV finals six out of eight years and to have the chances in the past to repeat and watch them slip away, it was nice seeing it finally happen."
While the HHS boys were the only Tribland team competing in Sunday's finals, the area was well represented at state.
In Class B on the girls side, Hastings High fell in the semifinals to Waverly 3-2 (169-135, 159-134, 158-175, 136-147, 162-137). In singles action, the Tigers' Cheyenne Fielder was second with a 538 — Blair's Krystanna Haney won with a 552. Also from HHS, Mikayla Novak was ninth with a 455.
In Class C, both Adams Central teams qualified. The AC boys lost in the semifinals Saturday, while the AC girls fell in the quarterfinals.
Individually, the Patriots' Marcus Medcalf (534) and Darren Harpold (505) were fifth and sixth. On the girls side, AC's Shianne Everhart (487) and Sara Medcalf (477) were fourth and ninth.
Both St. Cecilia teams were represented in Class D. The STC boys fell in the semifinals, while the Hawkettes lost in the quarterfinals. The Franklin boys also qualified, falling in the quarterfinals.
St. Cecilia's Brenda Tran won the Class D girls title with a 498. For the Bluehawks individually, Mason Furman (497) and Chris Le (487) were fifth and sixth.
It marked the second straight year that all three Hastings teams — both boys and girls — qualified for state.
The weekend started with eight teams in each class Saturday. After the teams were seeded based off their scores in four games, the tournament went into a single-elimination Baker format — where the bowlers on the team rotate each frame — to get down to two teams.
Those two teams then faced off Sunday in an arena-style setting in front of lights and cameras. NET will air the boys state finals for all classes Feb. 23 at 8 a.m.
Hysell, Sadd, Davis, Godtel and Christen all experienced a similar atmosphere last year, while the Tigers' two freshmen were part of it for the first time.
"You can tell the difference between kids who haven't been out there," Butch Hogan said. "Even though we had two freshmen who had never been out there, the other five kids showed so much support. It was nothing to those freshmen to be out there. They had them convinced it's just another walk in the park."
Hastings didn't get off to the best start in the first game, bowling two open frames. But then Bladyn Hogan bowled a strike to get the Tigers going.
"We just needed that one spark," Sadd said. "He backed us and he got the first strike for us. We were off to the races after that."
Hastings took control of the game with four straight strikes in frames 6-9.
The second game was tight early, but the Tigers finished with five spares and a strike to take a 2-0 lead.
Hastings was in control the entire third game, clinching an undefeated season.
"It feels amazing," Sadd said. "Our team has been strong all year. I knew if we battled together, all seven of us, we were going to end up here and we were going to go all the way. That was just my trust in my team."
Win or lose, the Tigers had planned to honor Matt and his family at the end of the match with the rose.
"It was emotional for all of us," Sadd said. "That was our big meaning this weekend. We weren't doing it just for the school, we weren't doing it individually, we were doing it for Matt and his family."