300 reasons to smile!

Puleio is perfect-o in Monroe’s win over Raiders

By: James McKeever
   The Monroe boys bowling team was enjoying a pretty good week. Then Gregg Puleio came along and provided the perfect ending.
   On Tuesday, Jan. 20, the Falcons broke the school record for high series with a 3115 in a crucial victory over J.F. Kennedy that moved Monroe into a first-place tie with JFK in the Greater Middlesex Conference White Division.
   Falcons coach George Packard, who started the program in 1996, told his team to enjoy the victory that night, but then be ready for the next opponent on the schedule.
   The Falcons must have been listening. Two days later, on Thursday, Jan. 22, Monroe broke the school mark again, this time with a 3288 in a 4-0 win over North Brunswick.
   The man of the day was Puleio, a 5-9, 145-pound freshman who fired a 300 game — the first perfect game in school history — in game two to help his team record a 1152 set.
   "When I threw that last strike, it was crazy. Everybody was jumping on me and yelling and I picked up my mom and twirled her around," Puleio said. "I can’t even explain what that feeling was like."
   Funny thing is, Puleio came very close to missing the match. He left his bowling shirt in school, and league rules prohibit players from bowling without their uniform.
   Puleio’s mother, Dee, came to the rescue. After receiving a call from Gregg, she went to school, got the shirt from his locker and rushed it over to Brunswick Zone Carolier Lanes in North Brunswick just in time for the match.
   "It actually worked out great because my mom originally wasn’t going to be able to see the match," Puleio said. "But after she brought me the shirt she decided to stay. So she got to see the perfect game because I forgot my shirt."
   With Dee, Packard and his teammates rooting him on, Puleio rolled a 223 in the opening game and Monroe won 1110-958. In game two he started off hot and never cooled off.
   "After I hit eight in a row, I started feeling that this could be it," said Puleio, whose average was 197 entering Thursday’s match. "In the GMC Individual Tournament (one week earlier) I threw eight in a row and finished with a 279."
   "In the GMC’s I had seen him do eight in a row, so I knew he could do this," Packard said. "In that game he spared the ninth, then threw two more strikes in the 10th for a 279. But against North Brunswick I was just trying to keep my cool. His mom looked at me and said ‘How can you be so calm?’ But I don’t want Gregg to see me get emotional in that spot, because then he could lose it. In a situation like that you don’t want to change anything. Just keep doing the same thing and that’s what I tried to do."
   Puleio did not lose it. With each passing throw, the crowd of people watching the match at the end of the building (lanes 71 and 72) started to grow, but the noise level fell to a hush as Puleio released the ball.
   Then came the ninth frame. Bang, another strike. The crowd erupted and Puleio started to get the jitters, which he says is not such a bad thing.
   "Everybody got real quiet when I was throwing the ball on the 10th frame," he said. "But I thought that was cool. I like that kind of pressure."
   Then came the 10th frame, and Puleio takes us from there
   "I was hitting my mark every shot, but by the 10th frame I was a little shaken. My knees were shaking a little bit. The 10th and 11th shots were both good. But on the last one, I threw it a little harder and the pins fell from the side. But the seven pin was teetering. I then yelled out ‘FALL!’ It seemed like a long time, but it finally did fall."
   And the place went bonkers, with a wild pack of teammates mobbing Puleio.
   "On the last shot he went light in the pocket and the seven pin didn’t fall right away," Packard said. "It was one of those teetering jobs. It was living in slow motion for a couple of seconds."
   By the time Puleio settled down, he realized there was still another game to bowl. He started that game with a strike, too. But then physical and emotional fatigue caught up with Puleio, "and then it was all downhill from there," he said of the third game. He rolled a 188 to finish with a 711 series.
   Monroe won the third game 1026-935, and took overall pins 3288-2829 to avenge one of their two losses of the season. T.J, Van Gorden, who leads the team with a 206 average, rolled a 713 set, with a 266 high game in game three.
   On Monday of this week, the Falcons improved their record to 13-2 with a 3-1 win over South River. Eric Wysokowski (194 average) led the charge with a 626 set. Puleio produced a 607. Monroe finished at 898-1083-1016-2997.
   Packard’s girls team evened its record at 8-8 Monday with a 3-1 triumph over South River. Samantha Beyer (495), Robyn Grant (487) and Kristin Bjornsen (475) led the way as the Falcons scored 788-744-718-2250.
   Monroe’s teams were scheduled to bowl Bishop Ahr on Thursday (yesterday) and need to make up Wednesday’s snowed out matches vs. Perth Amboy. The NJSIAA Girls Tournament gets under way on Saturday (9:30 a.m.) at Brunswick Zone Carolier in North Brunswick. The boys state tournament starts Saturday, Feb. 7, also at Carolier.