Rolls a 300 game en route to Bergen County title
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
There was something magical about Saturday morning, long before Jordan Lopez and the Lyndhurst bowling team headed to Bowler City in Hackensack for the Bergen County Bowling Championships.
Something mystical, something eerie.
It started when Lopez’s father, Andres, an accomplished bowler in his own right, got his latest ring for bowling a 300 perfect game.
“It came in the mail,” Jordan Lopez said. “And he gave it to me. He has about 50 of them, but this was the latest one.”
The younger Lopez, a sophomore at Lyndhurst, put the ring on his finger as he headed to the lanes.
The weird events continued. As Lopez got to the lanes, he realized that he didn’t have a belt to hold up his pants.
“I like tucking my shirt inside my pants when I bowl,” Lopez said.
Lyndhurst bowling coach Michael Rizzo gave up his belt to Lopez to wear. But as Rizzo took the belt off, he had a message to give to his standout bowler.
“I said that the belt has nine strikes in it,” Rizzo said. “You have to get the last three by yourself.”
Rizzo was referring to the 12 strikes in a row that it takes to bowl a perfect game of 300.
“When he said that, I didn’t know what to take,” said Lopez, whose best game was 278 prior to Saturday. “I really thought that I could do it. I went to practice the day before and felt like I couldn’t miss the pocket.”
It’s impressive that Lopez felt that way, considering that last year, he went away from the conventional one-handed form of bowling and became a two-handed roller.
“When I was bowling one-handed, I wasn’t that good,” said Lopez, who did carry a more-than-respectable average of 189 while bowling with his right hand. “I wanted to be better. I hurt my finger two years ago and started trying with two hands. My Dad told me that he thought I would be better with one hand, but I didn’t feel comfortable anymore. So I bowled with two hands.”
More and more bowlers are going to the two-handed style, but it’s still very rare.
“I feel it’s easier to learn that way,” Lopez said. “It’s easier to get more revolutions on the ball with two hands. You get through the pocket easier.”
So Lopez _ using two hands, using his coach’s belt and wearing his father’s ring _ set forth to compete in the Bergen County championships.
“It’s made me a better bowler,” Lopez said. “I really thought I had a chance to win.”
However, the story got better.
In Lopez’s first game in the tournament, he got that long-awaited perfect game.
“After the eighth one, I started to feel it a little,” Lopez said. “I felt the pressure. I tried not to look at other people or the scoreboard. I just wanted to shoot the ball.”
Lopez went on to shoot a 236 and a 266 for the rest of the morning slate, then rolled a 236, 199 and 190 to have a total score of 1,427, winning the individual crown and leading the Golden Bears to a second place finish among Group I and II schools and fourth overall.
For his efforts, Lopez has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Incredibly, he joins older sister Lexus as an Athlete of the Week honoree. Lexus Lopez was the Observer Athlete of the Week, almost at the same time in 2011, after she won the Bergen County girls’ championship as a sophomore.
It marks only the fifth time in the last 12 years that siblings had both earned Athlete of the Week and only the third brother/sister act, joining the Andrew and Ashleigh Amadeo of Kearny and Karolina and Matt Kowalski of North Arlington.
Lopez felt good about bowling the perfect game, especially the toughest shot, meaning The 12th and final strike.
“It was good coming off my hands,” Lopez said. “I knew I had the strike and the 300.”
Of course, his older sister, who is a member of the Lyndhurst bowling team as well, was the first to greet him.
“She came right out and she knew I had it,” Jordan said of Lexus. “Once people knew I was close to it, I knew that all eyes were on me. That sort of motivated me. I knew I had to look good.”
Once the 300 game was over, Lopez had to refocus because he had five more games to bowl.
“I had to forget about the 300 and focus on winning for the team,” Lopez said.
Rizzo thought it was just a matter of time before Lopez reached perfection.
“He has the ability of running off seven or eight in a row,” Rizzo said. “Any time he gets the ball, he’s capable of bowling a perfect game. He’s perfected the two-handed throw. We’re not going to stop him now.”
Rizzo was the first Lyndhurst High School bowler to get a 300 in competition. He’s also the first Lyndhurst bowler to win the Bergen County title since 1979.
Rizzo said that Lopez has always had the internal competition of having his talented father and sister ahead of him.
“I think it’s good that they have to compete against each other,” Rizzo said. “When Lexus first became a good bowler, Jordan would get all worked up. I think in the back of his mind that he didn’t want to lose to his sister. So there was always a sibling rivalry. It was a good thing for our team.”
Incredibly, Lopez is not a bowler in his heart.
“Baseball is my favorite sport,” said Lopez, who has been a pitcher, catcher and first baseman during his baseball career. “I have to use my two hands in baseball, but only when I hit.”
Jordan hopes to play baseball with the Lyndhurst varsity this spring.
“He’s a big, strong kid,” Rizzo said. “He’s almost too intense, sometimes to a fault. We talk all the time about calming him down.”
Lopez’s big sister, who also plays basketball, has already secured a bowling scholarship to Fairleigh Dickinson in the fall. Could that be on the horizon for Jordan?
“I think about that sometimes,” Lopez said. “It would be nice.”
But not as nice as the 300 ring that is coming soon. He can give the other one back to his father, because Jordan earned one of his own last Saturday.