Bowling preview: Massive changes coming to postseason bowling this winter

This upcoming high school bowling season here in New Jersey will be unlike ever seen before.

There are multiple new changes in regards to how the NJSIAA is handling the winter sport especially when it comes to the state tournaments at the end of the season.

In the past, when it came to the team portion of the postseason, for the sectional tournaments, if a team entered, you bowled. Everybody got to participate no matter the type of season you had, and the sectionals all took place on one day at different locations. All the teams would bowl three games to determine a winner with the highest number of pins knocked down in each group being crowned champion. Second-place finishers in each group and section as well as a select number of wildcards — teams with the highest pin totals that didn’t take first and second — would advance to the group championships which featured the same format of three games to decide a winner.

To bowl in the state individual tournament in the past, the top 25 bowlers including ties at each sectional site would advance per their total three-game carded series. The only way to make the state individual tournament was to essentially bowl well at sectionals. If you had an off day or had to miss it, you were out of luck. It didn’t matter for example you had had the highest averages in all the other dual matches throughout the season.

Those ways of thinking are now completely out the door, and new, improved, and fair ways to bowl in each the state team and individual tournaments have arrived.

In all the other sports, to qualify for either the state team tournaments or individual tournaments like in tennis or wrestling, you had to win matches or games during the regular season and county/conference tournaments. Seedings were largely based on power points or there was a committee to help determine who qualified along with other factors. That is all now coming to bowling.

A power points system has now been implemented this winter and that will be used to determine who qualifies for the sectional tournaments. And instead of all the sectionals being on one day, there will now be 12-team brackets for each group and they will now be in dual meet format like the regular season matches. You win your match and you advance to the next round. The first three rounds will be at the higher seeded team’s home alley, but the sectional finals will all be on the same day for boys and girls at predetermined locations.

The cutoff date is Feb. 6, the seeding date is Feb. 8, the first round is to be played between Feb. 12-14, the quarterfinals by Feb. 20, and the semifinals by Feb. 23. The sectional finals are scheduled for Feb. 24 at Bowler City in Hackensack (North Jersey, Section 1), Bowlero-North Brunswick (North 2 and Central), and Lauren Lanes in Maple Shade (South Jersey).

The sectional champions from each group and section will then compete at the state Group Championships at Bowlero-North Brunswick on Feb. 27. The four sectional champions in each group will be seeded by their original power points calculations at the cutoff date. The semifinals and finals will be on the same day with the semis winners playing each other on a different pair of lanes.

A team’s power points are defined as the average of every team PP-Game during the regular season. A PP-Game is based on the four best individual scores in each game. All PP-Games will be averaged (rounded to two decimal places) to determine the overall power points for that team.

As an example for one PP-Game, if a team’s top four player scores are 180, 190, 210, and 220, one PP-Game would equal 800. For Season points where six games are played with PP-Games of 800, 810, 820, 830, 840, and 850 for a total of 4,950 pins, you would divide that tally by six to get your 825.

Qualifications will be based on all games/matches played from opening day (Nov. 27) to the cutoff date with the minimum of 21 games. Teams that play less than 21 games are still eligible, but the power point value will be based on dividing the sum of all PP-Games by 21, regardless of how many games bowled.

Brackets are final the day after the seeding meeting at noon.

In the head-to-head tournament, the first team to win two points advances. All state matches are scored using five bowlers and all five scores will count. The first team with two points wins the match. If a team wins the first two games, the match is over. Final scores are to be reported to as 2-0, 2-1, 2-0.5, or 2.5-0.5. A match tied after three games will enter as 2-1.5. If a match is tied at 1.5-1.5 after three games, the teams will bowl full baker games until a tie is broken. The winner of a baker game earns 0.5 points.

As far as changes to the state individual tournament go, starting this season, the top 100 bowlers per regular season average between opening day and the cutoff date will make it. Independent bowlers are eligible. Qualification will be based on a bowler’s averages with a minimum of 21 games. Bowlers who bowl less than 21 total games can still enter, but the averages will be divided by 21.

Individual averages will be rounded to two decimal places. If there is a tie for the final spot, all tied bowlers qualify. The tournament is slated for Feb. 29 at Bowlero-North Brunswick.

The averages used are those reported to No longer will the individual scores from sectional smatter for the state individual tourney.

At the state individual tournament, for the first round, all bowlers who qualify will bowl three games with the top 18 bowlers then advancing to the second round. Ties for the 18th position will be broken by a two-frame roll-off. If a tie still exists after the roll-off, a one-ball roll-off will be conducted until the tie is broken.

In Round 2, bowlers will again bowl three games, and then the top five bowlers will advance to the stepladder finals portion. A tie for the fifth spot will again use the same roll-off procedure. Ties for the fourth and fifth spots shall instead be broken using a three-game total from the first round. If somehow a tie still exists, a simple coin flip will take place.

Bowlers will then compete head-to-head in the stepladder with the No. 5 seed facing the No. 4 seed, and then the winner will face the No. 3 seed, the No. 2 seed, and then the No. 1 seed in the final.

For co-ed teams, they must bowl against other co-ed teams or boys only teams. If a school has separate boys and girls teams, then girls must bowl on the girls only teams. For state tournament purposes, co-ed teams will be entered on the boys side. Girls on co-ed teams may compete only on the girls side of the state individual tournament.

All varsity schedules and rosters must be entered in by the start of the season. Rosters must be checked and updated throughout the season. All regular season varsity scores must be reported to the site as soon as possible. Either team can enter scores, but it is up to coaches/managers to confirm their team’s data is correct. If there are duplicate players listed in a roster, averages could be incorrect.

Action gets started on Nov. 27.

Chris Nalwasky may be reached at Follow us on social: Facebook | Instagram | X (formerly Twitter).

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