Down 2 points to 1 and trailing by 31 pins in the deciding final Baker game, the Silver Lake Atom Splitters presented by Spiceworks rallied to defeat L.A. X presented by GoBowling.com to win the 2014 Professional Bowlers Association League Elias Cup.
In the fifth frame of the Baker game, which was worth three points, Silver Lake’s Bryon Smith, Chris Barnes, Dom Barrett, Wes Malott and Tommy Jones combined to string the last seven strikes to overtake the L.A. X lineup of Mika Koivuniemi, EJ Tackett, Andres Gomez, Jason Belmonte and Parker Bohn III, winning the game, 225-203, and the match 4-2.
The finals, seen Sunday on ESPN from Brunswick Zone Carolier, opened with a battle between reigning PBA Player of the Year and nine-time Tour titlist Belmonte bowling for L.A. Clippers all-star guard Chris Paul’s L.A. X, and former Player of the Year and 17-time Tour winner Barnes, bowling for television and Internet personality Chris Hardwick’s Atom Splitters.
Belmonte, wearing his Google Glass headset that provides a point-of-view look at his release, dominated from the start firing the first nine strikes and finishing with a 279-259 victory over Barnes to give L.A. X the early 1-0 lead.
In the alternate-shot doubles game, Barnes teamed with Smith to defeat the L.A. X pairing of Bohn and Koivuniemi, 261-228, to even the match at 1-1. Down by 12 pins in the third frame after Smith left a 2-10 split that Barnes was unable to convert, the pair came back with eight consecutive strikes to win handily.
In the Baker trios contest, the momentum swung back to L.A. X with Belmonte, Gomez and 2012-13 PBA Rookie of the Year Tackett defeating Silver Lake’s Jones, Barrett and Malott, 216-190, to regain the match lead, 2-1, setting up the deciding Baker game.
“The important thing is to have a lineup where you know everyone has your back,” said Barnes, who earned the PBA League’s Mark Roth Most Valuable Player award. “Whether you strike or split you have to know that the guy behind you is giving it his all.
“You have to remember that the singles game is the only part of the tournament where you’re not bowling with a teammate(s). Personally, I felt these guys put me in a position to succeed. I couldn’t think of a better group of guys who had that ‘have-your-back’ mentality.”
Team manager and four-time Tour winner Mark Baker also stressed the importance of the Atom Splitters’ player chemistry and putting together the right lineups in the right situations throughout the whole PBA League season.
“We put this team together for the sole purpose of getting to this point,” said Baker. “With a team that has this much talent it makes it easy—you could make a decision and feel confident you could stick with it. I never second-guessed myself.”
For the second consecutive year, the journey to the Elias Cup, named after the late founder of the PBA Eddie Elias, began with eight teams competing in a single-elimination bracket to determine the winner. Quarterfinal and semifinal rounds were conducted in January at Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park, Mich., with the championship final conducted at Brunswick Zone Carolier.
PROFESSIONAL BOWLERS ASSOCIATION LEAGUE ELIAS CUP FINALS
Brunswick Zone Carolier, North Brunswick, N.J.
Silver Lake Atom Splitters presented by Spiceworks def. L.A. X presented by Gobowling.com, 4-2.
Singles Match (one point)
Jason Belmonte, L.A. X def. Chris Barnes, Silver Lake Atom Splitters, 279-259.
Alternate Ball Doubles (one point)
Silver Lake Atom Splitters (Chris Barnes/Bryon Smith) def. L.A. X (Mika Koivuniemi/Parker Bohn III), 261-228.
Baker Trios (one point)
L.A. X (Jason Belmonte/Andres Gomez/EJ Tackett) def. Silver Lake Atom Splitters (Tommy Jones/Dom Barrett/Wes Malott), 216-190.
Five-Player Baker Team (three points)
Silver Lake Atom Splitters (Bryon Smith/Chris Barnes/Dom Barrett/Wes Malott/Tommy Jones) def. L.A. X (Mika Koivuniemi, EJ Tackett, Andres Gomez, Jason Belmonte and Parker Bohn III), 225-203.