In 2018, the Creek Wood Lady Red Hawks made their first state finals appearance for bowling in the program’s history.
That year, Creek Wood faced powerhouse program Hardin County, which, to this day, has won nine straight titles.
With their first appearance in the state finals in program history, most people didn’t think twice when Hardin County defeated Creek Wood as Hardin County was at the top of its game and Creek Wood was just starting to grow as a program.
Fast forward to 2022: Cassie and Scott Wright, the two co-head coaches of the Creek Wood bowling program, have now been a part of the program for eight years and have built a successful girls’ bowling team that once again made its way to the state finals. Just like last time, Hardin County stood in the way of a state title.
The fact that Hardin County stood in the way once more was possibly the only commonality. Creek Wood’s bowling program had grown.
The Lady Red Hawks had been through much more and were prepared and experienced this time without excuses.
The Lady Red Hawks (literally) rolled through all the competition on a destructive path towards the rematch with Hardin County by destroying Wilson Central 23-0 in the sectional round and then putting away Gatlinburg-Pittman 22-1 in the quarterfinals of the state tournament.
In the semifinals of the state tournament, Creek Wood faced Stewarts Creek. Stewarts Creek had three girls that qualified for the individual state tournament, so going into the match, Creek Wood knew that Stewarts Creek would be a tough test. Even with the most talented team that the Lady Red Hawks had seen to that point, Creek Wood defeated Stewarts Creek 18.5 to 4.5 to advance to the finals.
Confidence was sky high and the Lady Red Hawks were on their way to the state title match for the first time since that 2018 meeting with Hardin County. Nobody on either side said it out loud but both Creek Wood’s and Hardin County’s coaches knew when the state tournament began that this would be the matchup.
Out of the gate, Hardin County looked more prepared and ready for the stage.
In the individual six-on-six game, Hardin County won all six matchups and took a 170 pin lead going into the baker format games. It was the worst start Creek Wood could have imagined.
The Lady Red Hawks were all but mathematically eliminated. Creek Wood had to legitimately win every single baker format game. Of course, beating a then eight-time consecutive state champion in five straight baker games seemed like an impossible task but the Lady Red Hawks did not blink.
In the baker format, teams choose five bowlers. The first bowler bowls the first and sixth frames while the second bowls the second and seventh frames and so on and so forth.
In the first baker game, Creek Wood won 201 to 200. Creek Wood won the first of five baker games left and by only one pin but that was what the Lady Red Hawks needed to turn the tide.
That confidence was sky high once more. Creek Wood still trailed by a lot of points and a lot of pins but a state title was possible and that’s all the info they needed.
In the second game, Creek Wood smashed Hardin County 236 to 159 cutting the overall pin difference in half.
If the confidence was high after the first win, it was soaring after the big second-game win. With a 183 to 158 win in the third game Creek Wood had really started to fight its way back into the game.
After taking the fourth baker game 167 to 162, the Lady Red Hawks were now tied with Hardin County at 8-8 and trailed by only 62 pins overall.
The Creek Wood girls were ten frames away from a state title. As the last baker game began, both teams came out strong as both teams struck but Creek Wood made a few mistakes and Hardin County didn’t.
Going into the final frame, all Hardin County had to do was get a strike or spare to win and that’s exactly what they did. Creek Wood still had its tenth frame to go but couldn’t make up the difference. Hardin County would go on to win the TSSAA state title.
“These girls worked hard all year as a team to get to this point,” Creek Wood coach Scott Wright said. “I’m proud of the hard work that they’ve put in. We knew coming in that Hardin County would be hard to beat but that’s what we wanted. We want to face those teams. Those kinds of teams push us to get better. As a coach, we want to take moments like this and grow with it. We will keep going and keep working.”