Justin Macellaro is using a heavier bowling ball this year, but the biggest change has been where he’s been in the lineup. The senior is the anchor in most matches for the Ewing High School boys’ team.
“You pick up the team,” Macellaro said. “If we’re falling behind at the end, you pick up the team.”
It’s a spot that brings with it pressure, and the anchor has to be consistent. Macellaro has been learning to handle the pressure while serving as a team leader, and his consistency had helped Ewing to an 13-0 start, as of Jan. 25.
“You have to think about not just yourself, but your team,” said Macellaro, who has a high score of 244 this season.
It’s been a good start for the Blue Devils, who again have high aspirations.
They finished last year 17-1, but were third in the Central Jersey Group 2 sectional, 79 pins away from reaching the state tournament.
Ewing graduated Trey Zaggi, Reese Hunt and Matt Abelowitz from that team. But with Macellaro and Chase Springett back for their senior year, along with Kyle Briggs and Jimmy McSweeny returning and the addition of another senior, Nolan Brodsky, along with freshmen Mike Franks and Malcolm Richards, optimism is running high.
“For this year, I saw big potential for not only Chase and I, but I saw Nolan and Jimmy coming up,” Macellaro said.
The depth of this year’s team is important. A close range of abilities among the team has made the team perform better overall.
“This year, seems like there’s more competition for the last spot,” Macellaro said. “The last guy is close with a couple guys.”
Macellaro has grown into his role. He never bowled in the anchor spot before this year, but he has been a part of the varsity lineup for the last three years. Macellaro got his start competing long before he first made the Ewing team.
“I first started when I was 6,” Macellaro said. “My sister and brother were doing it. They were on the junior league at Slocum’s. Since then, I was into it. My friend wanted me to try out for the high school team. I tried out and didn’t make it first year. And then sophomore year, I made it.”
Macellaro has been improving steadily. His average went up significantly from sophomore to junior year, and it put him in good position to anchor this year.
“He’s been the most consistent for us,” said Ewing head coach Dave Angebranndt. “He’s averaging 186-187. He just matured more. He’s been more laid back. Last year, I felt like he was comparing himself to other people, and he was getting himself caught up.
“This year, he’s stepped into a leadership role and understands what he needs to do. People look up to him now instead of him having to look up to someone else. They know he’s going to go out there and bowl very consistent. At some point in all three games (on Jan. 16) he had five (strikes) in a row. If he follows those five in a row with spares, he’d be a lot higher.”
Macellaro is hoping he can earn a perfect 300 this year before his opportunities run out. Ewing is coming down to crunch time when they want to be rolling their best. The big date circled by all the bowlers is Feb. 3, when they return to sectionals for the chance to qualify for the state tournament.
“You can be 5-0, 9-0, 18-0, but if you don’t end up winning at the end when it matters, unfortunately that season can go down as a loss,” Angebranndt said.
“The guys just need to be more consistent. They’re bowling well enough to win each match, he added. “We’ve lost two games out of the nine matches we’ve had, and they bounce back from it typically. They go into it not really concentrating and figuring out what the lanes are like and the other team will come out and beat us the first game, but then we’ll come out and win by a couple hundred pins the second and third game.
Angebranndt said that “it’s going to be a wake-up call for some” come tournament time. “I have three guys that bowled for varsity last year, so they have the opportunity to help out experience wise.”
Angebranndt will be looking to see who has the most potential to help the team when they get to sectionals. He’s hoping that in the moment, he can find five bowlers at their best.
Macellaro is looking forward to being a leader again that day. He’s gotten better with each year, and needs that to continue over the final weeks of his scholastic career.
“I think my first year I wasn’t as consistent with my games,” Macellaro said. “I was kind of all over the place. Over the years, I’ve been working on my spares and my overall form of bowling. I can see that I’m getting better scores and better outcomes.”
He is confident that Ewing has the talent to make it to states. They have been working at ensuring they are in top form for sectionals.
“I think this group is doing well,” Macellaro said. “I think we have a lot more practices than some other teams do. We get that opportunity to practice a bit more and improve the things we need to work on. Overall, I think the team has improved throughout the season.”
Added Angebranndt: “I definitely think the guys can do well. They just have to make spares. It comes down to understanding how important those spares are in situations.”
The addition of Brodsky, who wasn’t bowling for the Blue Devils, has helped solidify the team. Brodsky has been a regular in the lineup, and could even anchor in the absence of Macellaro or Springett, who has continued to balance wrestling in the winter season for Ewing.
Macellaro is happy to have had the opportunity to contribute during his career, and he’s happy to wind up at the top in his final year.
“The most important thing I see,” he said, “is that how the seniors did last year, you have to help the up and coming bowlers and get them on track so they’re good for next year.”