North Arlington boys bowling wins first sectional title since 2019

When the bowling season got underway, North Arlington boys coach Dan Farinola didn’t fully know what to expect this season. But with no seniors among the Vikings’ top four bowlers, Farinola saw a group that had the potential to do good things down the road.

That potential came to full bloom on Saturday, perhaps a little earlier than previously anticipated.

Thanks to a balanced lineup from one through five North Arlington claimed its first state sectional title since 2019 when it defeated Belvidere, 2-0, in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1 final at Bowlero in North Brunswick.

Alex Garcia and Trevor Waters led the way on Saturday with two-game averages of 212 and 208.5 respectively. Jonathan Garcia averaged a 162.5, Keith Nelson rolled a 154 average and Rohan Patel averaged 151.5.

North Arlington, which is 21-4, will face Clayton in the Group 1 semifinals on Tuesday at Bowlero. The winner will then bowl for the overall Group 1 title later that afternoon against the Kinnelon-Roselle Park winner.

“Going into the season I thought we would be good,” Farinola said. “I knew we’d be competitive, but by the last two weeks of the season I knew that we were a real contender (for a sectional title).”

Over the course of the season, Farinola saw all five of his starters see their averages jump by 10-20 pins, creating a lineup that was not only balanced, but deep.

With such depth, Farinola has had his group not worry about individual scores, but rather place an emphasis on the number 900 because if the quintet could do that each game, it would be all, but assured of winning that match.

“It’s something we stress, especially in the playoffs, before every game,” said Farinola. “I always give them the goal of a 900 for the team score. I told them you have to average 180, so if you’re on pace for 160 and you see the guy next to you is on pace for 200, we’re good. So don’t look at your individual scores, look at the team score.”

In the state tournament, North Arlington hit the 900 pin goal in five of the six games.

Tuesday’s first round 2-0 win over Hasbrouck Heights saw North Arlington roll a 984 average, led by Patel who rolled a 256 and a 277.

Two days later, in the semifinals against St. Mary’s of Rutherford, Patel once again starred rolling a 230 in the first game before scoring a career-best 289 in the second game.

Patel, a junior, was the difference in the semifinals, but when he rolled the team’s low score on Saturday, it further reaffirmed Farionla’s emphasis on the team average over an individual score.

“That was the cool part about Saturday. It was a full team effort. We didn’t ride one or two kids the entire tournament.”

For the season, Patel’s rolled a 206.9 average, a 23.46 pin improvement from last season. Alex Garcia, a sophomore, has seen his average jump from 183.34 to 194.21 while younger brother Jonathan, a freshman, has averaged 175.51. Waters, a junior, is averaging 169.2 per game and Nelson, the lone senior in the top five, has averaged a 159.67.

Nelson and fellow senior Adam Hansali have done well in limited action due to NJIC league matches only using four bowlers per game.

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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer

Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)