Player-manager Norm Duke earns Mark Roth Most Valuable Player award
PORTLAND, Maine - Crafty strategy and clutch shots at every critical turn helped the Shipyard Dallas Strikers successfully defend their L.L.Bean PBA League Elias Cup title at Bayside Bowl in a hotly-contested battle with the local-favorite L.L.Bean Portland Lumberjacks.
Led by player-manager Norm Duke, the Strikers won the singles, trios and five-player Baker format matches for a 5-1 victory over the Lumberjacks. The finals aired Sunday on ESPN.
Duke, who was named Mark Roth PBA League Most Valuable Player at the conclusion of the event, gave Dallas a 1-0 lead with a 269-247 win over Portland’s Ryan Ciminelli in the opening singles match. Portland evened the score at 1-1 when Wes Malott and Kyle Troup topped Duke and Rhino Page in the doubles match, 238-209.
“We decided to put me first, and then me with a lefthander (Rhino Page) in the doubles match in order to preserve the lanes, because with all of the rev rate from our other guys, there wouldn’t be any oil left on the inside of the lane for anyone except me, and I needed more help than that,” Duke said. “And that left a fresher condition for our rev guys. They were able to make the adjustments and make the shots, and that’s why we came out on top.”
Dallas regained the upper hand with a 234-227 victory in the Baker trios match, with high-rev power players Tommy Jones, Bill O’Neill and BJ Moore III holding off Portland’s Malott, Bryon Smith and Liz Johnson.
In the decisive three-point five-player team finale, Duke’s strikes on both of his attempts, in the second and seventh frames, were converted into a turkey and a double ultimately made the difference in the Strikers’ 237-219 victory that locked up the Elias Cup.
”Obviously it’s disappointing, but (Dallas) bowled a really good game,” said Portland manager Tim Mack. “They’re defending champions for a reason, but we made them earn it.”
Going into the finals, Duke was concerned about being an underdog in terms of fan support.
“I watched the semifinal match between (Portland) and the (Silver Lake) Atom Splitters, and that was a wow-wow-wow moment,” Duke said of the Lumberjack’s miraculous win. “They pulled it out, and when you have this many people rooting you on, and that much energy flowing their way, it’s hard to say destiny wasn’t on their side.
“But my group never flinched. They just kept at it. They’re champions, all of them.”
Duke’s passion for PBA League competition has continued to grow over the program’s five-year history, which is interesting considering he had least amount of team experience throughout his career of any player in the league. He never experienced high school, collegiate or Team USA competition.
“That’s why you see so much excitement from me,” the PBA Hall of Famer said. “I’m 53 and slowing down a bit, but not when you jack me up like that. I feel like I’m 17 again. This is the kind of atmosphere we all want to play in front of. This league thing is going to take off; we all know it and it’s going to grow.”
Winning the MVP award, he added, took him completely by surprise.
“The MVP out of that group? No way,” he said. “Normally I wouldn’t put myself in position to win an award like that, but my crew kept saying, Norm, you’re throwing it last. We debated until the end, but my guys liked the way my ball was getting through the pins and they liked my chances, so that’s what happened.”
During the Elias Cup finals, Bayside Bowl co-owners Charlie Mitchell and Justin Alfond, along with PBA CEO and Commissioner Tom Clark, announced the sixth annual PBA League finals will return to Portland in 2018 on dates to be announced.
The PBA Tour resumes competition with the inaugural eight-player Main Event PBA Tour Finals May 19-20 at Main Event-Orlando, Fla., which will air on five consecutive Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. EST on CBS Sports Network beginning May 30, followed by a pair of PBA Xtra Frame Storm Cup events, the PBA Xtra Frame Wilmington Open from Ten Pin Alley in Wilmington, N.C., May 26-29, and the PBA Xtra Frame Jonesboro Open from Jonesboro Bowling Center in Jonesboro, Ark., June 2-4. Both Storm Cup events will be covered live, from first ball to last, on PBA’s Xtra Frame video streaming service. Visit xtraframe.tv for subscription information.
L.L.BEAN PBA LEAGUE ELIAS CUP FINALS
Bayside Bowl, Portland, Maine (aired Sunday on ESPN)
Final Standings: Shipyard Dallas Strikers ($60,000) def. L.L.Bean Portland Lumberjacks ($50,000), 5-1.
Singles Match (one point): Norm Duke, Dallas, def. Ryan Ciminelli, Portland, 269-247.
Alternate Ball Doubles (one point): Wes Malott/Kyle Troup, Portland, def. Norm Duke/Rhino Page, Dallas, 238-209.
Baker Trios (one point): Dallas (Tommy Jones/Bill O’Neill/BJ Moore III) def. Portland (Wes Malott/Bryon Smith/Liz Johnson), 234-227.
Five-Player Baker Team (three points): Dallas (Bill O’Neill/Norm Duke/Rhino Page/BJ Moore/Tommy Jones) def. Portland (Liz Johnson/Bryon Smith/Kyle Troup/Ryan Ciminelli/Wes Malott), 237-219.