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North bowler captures state championship

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Nov 18, 2020

Brandon Rucker, captain of the boys bowling team, won the FHSAA boys state championship Thursday, Nov. 5, at Boardwalk Bowl Entertainment Center in Orlando, coming back from the consolation bracket to win the first bowling title in school and Lee County history.

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The North Fort Myers High School boys and girls bowling teams had yet another great season, advancing to the third round of the recent FHSAA state championship in Orlando.

They also brought home a state championship.

Brandon Rucker, captain of the boys bowling team, won the FHSAA boys state championship Thursday, Nov. 5, at Boardwalk Bowl Entertainment Center in Orlando, coming back from the consolation bracket to win the first bowling title in school and Lee County history.

Rucker defeated sophomore Nick Fisher of Heritage High School of Palm Bay in the finals. Fisher came from the winner’s bracket, meaning that Rucker would have to beat him twice.

Rucker won the first match in the best two-out-of-three 690-642, then won in straight games in the second match 406-352 to claim the title.

Rucker hit a speed bump Wednesday when he was beaten by Hayden Knight of Rockledge to send him to the consolation bracket. Rucker then won his next three matches, including a rematch with Knight, to reach the finals.

“He was bowling better than I had ever seen him. He was clearly one of the best there and the person who beat him had to put together three perfect games to beat him,” North Fort Myers bowling coach Eric Brounson said. “When we faced him again, the plan was to make him do it again. I didn’t think he could do it, and he didn’t.”

Brounson said the game plan didn’t change in the finals, which was to execute his shots and to not beat himself.

“Fisher was a sophomore and I don’t believe he had been in such a pressure situation. We put the pressure on and he wasn’t able to execute the way you need to in a situation like that,” Brounson said. “I can see him winning state titles in the future.”

North High Principal Debbie Diggs said Rucker is an all-around great kid, a great athlete and great student.

“He’s somebody that any principal would be happy to have at their school. When we went up to Orlando, he was more concerned with what the team would do than on himself,” Diggs said. “We never imagined he would be state champ and there was incredible competition and he was so focused.”

After having to play numerous matches on Wednesday in individual and team competition, he had to bowl quite a bit on Thursday. Rucker had the mental focus and stamina to make it work.

In the team competition, both the boys and girls were able to win one match. After losing 3-1 to the Tampa Bay Heat, the boys defeated Martin County 3-1 before being eliminated by Apopka 3-1 in the double elimination tournament.

The girls lost a heartbreaker to Sandalwood 3-2 after holding a 2-0 lead. They recovered to win 3-2 over Odyssey Charter before being shut out by state runner-up Rockledge.