Stephanie Said hangs onto title – Justin Caruana Scicluna wins male event

Thursday, November 17, 2011, 16:47

The 2011 TENOVAR Intermediate Champions at the Eden SuperBowl: Justin Caruana Scicluna and Stephanie Said

The 2011 TENOVAR National Intermediate Championships, organized by the MTBA, concluded a busy period of competition at the Eden SuperBowl, which in little more than a month has hosted the National Senior Championships, the international Senior Open Championships, the National Junior Championships, and finally this annual tournament for those bowlers in the Under-23 age category. While Justin Caruana Scicluna was the eventual winner of the male division, the ladies’ event saw a title retention for 2010 champion, Stephanie Said.

Male Division: Caruana Scicluna overcomes early setback

The first of two six-game sessions in the qualifying round, saw a very slim early lead go to James Vassallo. His 1087 series featured a high game of 235, and placed Vassallo a mere two pins ahead of nearest rival Matthew Cossai on 1085, the latter’s best effort being a 222 in game five. Justin Caruana Scicluna had a tough day on the lanes, and finished the session in third place on 1050 pins, his 175 game average being way below his current national league average of over 211.

Things changed during the course of day two, which saw Caruana Scicluna improve to first place with a better 1187 on the day, and a 2237 qualifying total (187.2 ave). Matthew Cossai held onto second place (2152) while Clayton Zammit moved up into third with 2135 pins, ahead of James Vassallo who slipped to fourth on 2135.

Joining the top four in the second ‘Round Robin’ stage were Claude Camilleri, and Special Olympics star Gordon Gruppetta in fifth and sixth respectively. The six qualifiers carried forward 50% of their round one pinfall into the Round Robin, which would see all bowlers playing a five-game series of one on one confrontations, in which extra bonus pins were awarded for game wins, draws and also high scores.

It was here that Justin Caruana Scicluna really came into his own, beating four of his five opponents, losing only to Claude Camilleri in game five, 193 – 201. This meant that Justin easily held onto the top spot, ahead of Camilleri who managed to go one better than Justin, winning all five of his matches to sail through the standings from fifth to second. Matthew Cossai managed three wins from five to qualify in third place, and so clinch the final spot in the all important stepladder final.

Matthew faced Claude Camilleri in the Semi-Final, with the number two seed continuing his winning style from the previous round, as the game ended 181 – 165 to Camilleri, who would now face top seed Caruana Scicluna in the grand final of the male section.

Caruana Scicluna started the final match with an open frame, as his opponent bagged a strike, followed by another two for a ‘turkey’. Justin also found his striking line in frame two, and made it four in a row to cancel out his initial slip. Later in the game, Claude was knocked back with a pair of opens in the 6th and 7th while Justin managed to close out all of his frames, to take a clear advantage. Both finalists then opened their 9th and 10th frames, but the title belonged Caruana Scicluna by then, 187 – 170 the final score.

Female Division: Said prevails in tussle with Christabel Grima

The day one leader in this year’s female competition was Christabel Grima, who ended the session on 946 pins, 64 pins ahead of 2010 Intermediate Champion Stephanie Said on 882. Special Olympics bowler Maria Spiteri  sat in third place on 678 pins.

Just as Caruana Scicluna had done in the male competition, Said rallied for a much better second qualifying session of 1035 pins, for a twelve game total of 1917 (160.4 ave), which put her in first place as Grima qualified for the finals in second place on 1773 pins, having dropped to an 827 day two set. Maria Spiteri claimed the third stepladder final spot, there being no Round Robin stage in the female category.

The semi-final between Maria Spiteri and Christabel Grima, ended 118 – 143 in favour of the latter, who then went on to face Stephanie Said in the girls’ final, which would prove to be quite a nail-biter for both players and spectators alike. The first of a possible two final games, saw literally nothing between the two bowlers, as it ended a 141 – 141 draw. This meant that, according to tournament rules, the ninth and tenth frames would have to be rolled again, until a clear winner was found. Only one roll-off was necessary, and it went to Christabel Grima, 119 – 133 being the tie-break result.

That was not the end of the suspense, however, as when it comes to the grand final in such events, the number two seed must defeat the top seed twice in order to claim victory, and so the deciding second game got underway. Grima had the better start thanks to a double against a strike-spare for Said over the first two. Said then begun to take better control from frame four onwards, closing all of her frames up to the ninth, while Grima was stricken by a nasty 8-split in between two opens which allowed her opponent to coast ahead. Stephanie clinched victory with a 201 – 152 result, to hold onto her Intermediate crown for at least another year.

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