Written by Meghan Pero
24-year-old Anthony Pepe of East Elmhurst, N.Y., knocked out top seed Frankie Calca of Elmont, N.Y., on the way to winning his first New England Bowling Association singles title at AMF Auburn Lanes in Auburn, Mass.
“I just focus on bowling the lane and not worrying about my opponent,” Pepe said of bowling a close friend in Calca. That strategy proved successful for the young kegler, who threw a 221 to top Calca’s 219 in the second round of match play.
After a close match, with all the pressure on his 10th frame, Pepe said, “That's the beauty of bowling, being in that moment, needing three in the 10th. I’m very excited to win my first singles NEBA title.”
Although this is his first NEBA singles title, Pepe is no newbie to the winner’s circle. He won the PBA East Regional Howell Lanes open in 2011, but does not hold a PBA title as of yet since he won as a non-member. He and Alex Cavagnaro also won a NEBA doubles title in October 2009. In 2010, the duo won a PBA member/non-member doubles event.
Flying solo this time around, Pepe bested R.J. Broege of West Hartford, Conn., 268-233 in the semi-finals to advance to the championship round.
The Championship match up of Pepe versus Thomas Coco Jr.of Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., was a close one until the fifth frame when Pepe threw a five-bagger to bowl a 250 and secure his title.
“It was tough bowling my idol,” jests Coco, who was clean through the ninth for a 203. Coco was looking to earn his first NEBA title this weekend as well.
To reach the championship match, 30th seed Coco defeated all-time NEBA title winner Michael Lichstein of Broad Brook, Conn., 268-226.
The event drew 169 entries; 40 bowlers secured a spot in match play.
“I have nothing but nice things to say about NEBA. I love the tournament format," said Pepe, who has competed in NEBA events since 2009.
The field produced three 300 games, with Calca, Bob Fleetwood and Danny Khuu all achieving perfection.
The next NEBA event will be a singles tournament on July 7-8, 2012 at Bradley Bowl in Windsor Locks, Conn. The event will feature televised coverage of the last two rounds.
NEBA has run monthly scratch tournaments throughout New England since 1963. Since 2010, more than 900 bowlers from 15 states have participated. Just this year alone, more than 500 bowlers have entered in a NEBA tournament.
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More information can be found on BowlNEBA.com