Barring a miracle, the PBA East Region Bowlers Supply/Storm Products Cheetah Open finals appeared over by the fifth frame.
On one side Sunday morning was Travis Celmer, just a third-year PBA member, as well as the runner-up in this event last year, who entered the sixth frame riding five-straight strikes.
Then there was Bill O'Neill, a veteran touring pro who defeated Celmer in last year's finals. O'Neill settled for four spares and a strike through five frames and trailed the Reading-area native by 34 pins.
Then it happened.
At the same time that O'Neill finally found his stride, Celmer's groove suddenly vanished. Celmer converted a 7-pin spare before rolling straight into three consecutive splits in the seventh, eighth and ninth frames.
By that time O'Neill was in the midst of a five-bagger of his own and the turnaround was complete. The Langhorne native finished off Celmer for the second year in a row by capturing his seventh career PBA East Region title with a 233-198 victory at Colony Park Lanes North.
"I think I owe Travis at least dinner after that game," joked O'Neill, who earned $3,000 for his victory.
O'Neill was clearly frustrated after the fourth frame, when he left the 7-pin standing before converting the spare. Then in the fifth, the Saginaw Valley State University graduate left two more standing before completing his fourth spare of the one-game finals.
"Honestly, (at that point) I didn't think I could win," he said. "I didn't even think that if I struck out that I'd have enough. At that point I didn't think 240 was enough."
Celmer's spare in the sixth cracked the door open a little, but O'Neill needed more than that to have a chance. That was about the time that the left-handed Celmer, who earned $1,600 as the runner-up, noticed the oil conditions on both lanes 15 and 16 were deteriorating.
"I had a great start and then the lanes just got away from me," he said. "(On) the one lane the oil carried down a bit and that's when my ball didn't react."
Disaster finally struck for Celmer in the next frame after he left the 4-6-7-8-10, known as a Greek Church in bowling terms. The lefty failed to convert the five-pin spare and had the same thing happen the next two frames, when he found himself in "splits-ville."
"I adjusted to what the lanes were telling me," he said of his shots that resulted in 7-10 and 6-8 splits. "It just didn't work out."
Another miracle, albeit a minor one, happened for O'Neill in the ninth. After releasing his shot, he immediately yelled 'Oh, God' in disgust. The ball cut too much and hit the head-pin in the left side, a Brooklyn hit for a right-hander, but it nevertheless resulted in another strike.
While the result was perfect, O'Neill looked at it as an inexcusable miscue.
"What I did there in the ninth ... I don't know what it was," he said. "I really don't. Hopefully I'll forget about it by the time I leave."
---O'Neill, who qualified fourth, managed to avoid the cost and hassle of a hotel by spending the weekend as a welcomed house guest to good friend Greg Bruff.
Bruff, who captured his first PBA East Region title two weekends ago in Lebanon, and O'Neill both attended Saginaw together and have been friends ever since.
"It's always nice when he comes to town to see a face you know and you grew up bowling with," said Bruff.
Bruff's dream showdown with his buddy, however, will have to wait a little while longer. The York County Match Play champion failed to make the top 16 for Sunday's action after completing Saturday's qualifying in 59th place.
"That would have been nice," Bruff said. "I got off to a good start, but I caught a couple bad breaks. I just bowled a 277 but I had a 20-minute wait. Not exactly what you want to do coming off a good game."
---Gettysburg native Adam Baer was the only York-Adams player to advance to Sunday's round-of-16.
It marked the fourth time in just five PBA East Region events that Baer advanced to the second day of play.
After a good start, however, it was all downhill from there for Baer, who qualified ninth. The three-time York County Match Play champion won the opening game of the best-of-5 series opposite Brian LeClair, 236-229, before dropping the final three (247-189, 258-256, 235-203).
"I kind of lost my look in Game 2," said Baer, who finished in 14th. "I just got caught in between (looks)."
Baer tried to regain the lead in Game 3, but was separated by two pins -- the same distance between those two after eight games of qualifying (1,817-1,815).
"I changed balls and had a great look," he said. "Started to strike a lot. Unfortunately he was too."
---Lancaster's Rick Graham, who entered the event in third place in the East Region point standings, bested top-seeded Ryan Shafer, 3-1, to start the morning.
He followed that up by knocking off LeClair in the quarterfinals, before falling to O'Neill by a 258-238 margin in the semifinals.
Celmer, who qualified third, started his day with a close call in the first round against David Lumley. Those two traded games back and forth before Celmer claimed a 247-223 victory in Game 5.
The left-hander then rallied from a 1-0 deficit in the quarters against bowling legend Parker Bohn III by winning the final two games, before besting Tommy Dakouvanos, 234-180, in the semifinals.
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.