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Rhino Page unseats defending champion

By John Bassetti



A day late, but still appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day that “a little bit of luck” helped Rhino Page defeat Ryan Ciminelli for the PBA Central-East Panera Bread Hubbard Open presented by the Trumbull County Tourism Bureau and DV8 title Sunday afternoon at Bell-Wick Bowl.

Page, a three-time national tour winner, beat Ciminelli, 257-234, to pick up his third regional crown.

“I got lucky,” Page said of making an adjustment after picking up spares in the 4th and 5th frames during the championship game on lanes 23 & 24.

The change led to seven straight strikes.

“I made a good move after those two frames. This is the first time I bowled a left-hander [this weekend] and that’s why the lanes were changing much quicker,” he said of himself and Ciminelli sharing the same boards on the lanes because both are lefties.

“It felt like the oil was carrying down the lane, so it allowed me to square up a little bit more. I was throwing a urethane ball, which was popular in the ’80s, because there was so much friction [with new balls] on the lane this week and that oil pushing down can make those urethane balls a little goofy.”

Page, of Dade City, Fla., said he’s used urethane very little in his PBA career.

“Most of the time, it’s on wood centers or really old synthetic on a short pattern,” he said.

Page picked up a $2,600 first-place check after winning all seven of his games on Sunday. Including Saturday’s eight qualifying games, Page’s two-day total for 15 games was 3488. He placed third in the inaugural Hubbard Open in 2011.

This weekend, Ciminelli, of Cheektowaga, N.Y. went 6-4 and earned $1,350. His 18-game pinfall was 4072.

Ciminelli came close to successfully defending his title, but fell short in the last frame.

“Once you get that far, you always expect to win. I had to jump on him early rather than waiting for him to leave a 7-pin or something with that urethane. They just kept falling for him. He has my number; I haven’t beaten him when it’s mattered yet. So, one of these days ...”

Of their head-to-head encounters, the most notable was a win over Ciminelli for Page’s last national title: the Viper Championship in the World Series of Bowling in Detroit in 2009.

“I don’t know if he’s got it in his head or what, but I’m OK with it for now,” Page said of a likely reason for his edge to this point in their career matches.

One instance of luck on Sunday was when his ball slipped upon release during his first roll of the 10th frame on lane 24.

“I’ve been a little fortunate, especially today,” Page said. “Because it’s so humid in this building, the first shot [in the 10th] flew off of my thumb. I thought I was done. When I saw it actually held its line, I thought, ‘Oh, my goodness.’ I didn’t know how to react. So, it was a little bit of luck, but, obviously, I had to throw some good shots to get there as well.”

Sunday’s bowling was better than Saturday for Page.

“I didn’t feel like I performed the way I should have been. I made too many mistakes. Today [Sunday], I threw a lot of great shots and, fortunately, my misses, for the most part, were makeable spares.”

Page said his focus level was higher on Sunday because the lanes were less congested.

“You have 3 to 4 on a pair [and are bowling against the field] and it was sticky and hot. [Sunday], you’re bowling against somebody and it’s serious — every shot counts.”

Aside from the 4th and 5th frames, Page also had a spare in the first frame.

Ciminelli spared in the 4th, 8th and 10th.

Upon completion of the match, an 8th-frame comparison showed Ciminelli leading, 198-197.

His 10th consisted of a 9-count and spare (of the 6 pin) before he only knocked down six pins.

Ciminelli said he began the 10th trying to avoid a result similar to the 8th frame when he left an 8-pin.

“I knew that if I inched in the first shot that that was going to happen. So, I tried to amp it up a little bit from my previous shot on that lane when I left the 8-pin high. It still hurts. I thought it [first shot of 10th] was going to be there, but it just six-pinned on me.”

Of Ciminelli’s last ball in the 10th frame, Page said: “If he struck, he would have bowled 238, which forces me to strike on my first ball in the 10th to win. When he got 6, the pinfall count changed. Now I could get 9-spare, strike and still win by 2. I could have afforded an 8-spare, so that was a big shot and it loosened me up quite a bit.”

The new champion said he was very surprised that Ciminelli wanted to finish on No. 23.

“It was tough, no question,” Page said. “Him choosing to finish on it surprised me. I was happy about it.”

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