QUALIFYING | STEPLADDER
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. - Gazmine Mason of Cranston, Rhode Island, captured her first Professional Women's Bowling Association regional title Sunday, taking home the win at the PWBA East Hartford Regional.
Mason, a 23-year-old rookie, earned the top seed for the stepladder finals at Silver Lanes and held on to defeat Brandi Branka of Belleville, Illinois, in a tightly contested championship match, 200-197, to claim the $1,550 top prize.
Mason took the lead in the seventh frame after Branka was unable to convert a 4-6-7-10 split and maintained the advantage heading into the final frame.
She needed the first strike in the 10th to have the chance to lock out Branka but left a 2-4-8 combination on her first offering. She converted the spare and knocked down nine pins to force Branka to double for the opportunity to win. Branka's first shot got to the pocket but was unable to get out the 10 pin.
"I'm really happy that my hard work has paid off," said Mason, a two-time Junior Team USA member. "I worked really hard during our break, and to be able to win close to home is special. I'm only an hour and a half away, so to have my supporters and parents here was super nice."
Mason jumped from fifth to first in the final game of qualifying Sunday by rolling 268 to finish with a 1,817 total, a 227.12 average.
She was happy to see her process pay off after some misfortune at the PWBA East Hartford Open on Friday, when she rolled 158 in her final game to miss out on advancing to the Round of 12. Mason finished the main event in 14th place.
"I think I just lost focus on Friday," Mason said. "For this event, I wanted to stick to my process goals and just pay attention to what the lane was telling me and stay clean, and not focus on my score or results. Today, I only missed one makeable spare, so I was really happy with that."
Mason also earned her spot in the Go Bowling! PWBA Regional Showdown with her victory Sunday. The special made-for-TV event will be taped Aug. 17 in conjunction with the BowlerX.com PWBA Orlando Open and air Aug. 24 on CBS Sports Network. The winner will take home $6,000.
The field for the Go Bowling! PWBA Regional Showdown now is set with the conclusion of the PWBA East Hartford Regional.
Mason will be joined by fellow regional winners Elise Bolton of Merritt Island, Florida (PWBA Greater Cleveland Regional), and Julia Bond of Aurora, Illinois (PWBA Lincoln Regional and PWBA Sonoma County Regional), while the fourth spot will go to Kayla Bandy of Salisbury, Maryland.
With Bond winning a pair of events, Bandy earned the final spot by accumulating the most prize money throughout the four regional competitions.
Branka advanced to the title tilt after recording a pair a close victories to start the stepladder finals at Silver Lanes.
In the semifinal, Branka had the chance to shut out Karsyn Lukosius of Brick, New Jersey, after rolling a strike to start her final frame, but she left a 3-4-6-7 split on her second delivery to open the door for Lukosius.
Lukosius had bounced back after a pair of opens to start the game with four consecutive strikes but needed two more in the 10th frame for the chance to move onto the title match. She left a 10 pin on her first shot to allow Branka to advance, 211-204.
Branka's opening match against Janelle Irwin of Schenectady, New York, ended in a tie at 256, which resulted in a one-ball roll-off. Irwin started the roll-off by leaving a 10 pin, allowing Branka to deliver a strike on her first attempt to advance.
A total of 54 players rolled eight games Sunday to determine the top four bowlers for the stepladder finals. BowlTV.com provided livestream coverage of the PWBA East Hartford Regional.