By Josh Brown
TROY — A’leigha Smith said she couldn’t have been in position to roll a perfect game without help from her teammates.
On the final ball, though, she had to put even that out of her mind.
“When I was going up for the last strike, everyone was standing behind me, and they all got real quiet,” the Troy junior said. “On my approach, I tried not to think about it. I just kind of went up and threw the ball as fast as I could, before I had a chance to think about it.”
It worked, too, as Smith became the first Troy girls bowler ever to throw a perfect game — the latest in a long line of accomplishments by the Trojan girls bowling team as earlier this week it put the finishing touches on its fourth straight division championship. And with the Greater Western Ohio Conference postseason tournament this weekend, the Trojans will now begin preparing to defend their state championship.
Even so, Troy has had plenty to celebrate already this season — with Smith’s 300 game being the icing on the cake.
“That was a pretty special moment,” Troy girls bowling coach Rob Dever said. “Especially to watch her throw those last three strikes in the 10th frame. She was nervous then, sure — but I think she may have been more nervous when she had to do the radio interview this week.”
“It was nerve-wracking, but it was really exciting at the same time,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it at all, though, without the support of my team.”
And her best friend — teammate Jenna Stone, herself no stranger to 10th-frame heroics after sealing Troy’s state championship victory over Beavercreek last season — was the first person to congratulate her.
“She was,” Smith said with a laugh. “She was right there. She was jumping up and down as much as I was.”
“Of course, Jenna was the first to give her a hug,” Dever said. “She wasn’t even bowling in that game, but she was the first one there.”
Troy’s girls finished the season 15-2, 13-2 in Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division play in the division’s first year. Since the GWOC North Division was first formed 11 years ago, Troy has won at least a share of the title 10 of those seasons — including the last four straight.
In the past, the preseason and postseason GWOC Tournaments figured into the formula for deciding the overall title. With this year’s realignment, though, that is no longer the case.
“Because we went to four divisions, they’ve changed the format,” Dever said. “The pre- and postseason GWOCs have nothing to do with the division championships now. It’s solely based on regular season record. The tournaments are just to decide the overall GWOC champion, so that’s kind of all or nothing. One bad day, or one good day, can make or break you.”
Troy finished fourth in the preseason GWOC tournament, falling to Beavercreek in the semifinal round. But with the Trojans setting their sights on a bigger prize — another state title — the team is going into this weekend’s postseason GWOC Tournament, to be held Saturday at Poelking South, with the idea of treating it as postseason preparation.
“Year after year, the GWOC is always strong in bowling,” Dever said. “It’s almost a state-caliber tournament locally. In the past, we’ve put a lot of emphasis on it. This year, after already winning the division, we’re looking at the tournament as practice against some really good competition to get ready for the sectional tournament.”
And with the sectional coming up fast on Feb. 22, the Trojan girls will be ready.
“I feel pretty confident,” Smith said. “As long as we stick together as a team, I believe we can win state again.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.