By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half
STERLING HEIGHTS – In a sport filled with so much unpredictably, the Davison girls bowling team continues to be a model of incredible consistency.
For a sixth straight year, Davison advanced to the championship round of the Division 1 tournament Friday. Once there, the Cardinals improved to 5-1 in those championship matches, earning a 1,368-1,189 win over Oxford at Sterling Lanes to repeat as champions and win their fifth title in six years.
The only blemish was a loss to Macomb Dakota in the 2015 championship match.
“The girls are all dedicated and they know when come into our program, they need to give it their all,” Davison coach Bryan Davis said. “We have a great youth program. You get a couple or three good bowlers every year; it feeds into itself.”
In the boys event, Salem won its second MHSAA title with a 1,285-1,232 win in the championship match over a Hudsonville team that also was seeking the program’s second title.
Salem won it all in 2013, while Hudsonville was the champion in 2004.
“They were strong all season,” Salem coach Kathie Hahn said of her team. “I have four seniors so I was hoping for a good ending to their year. I was a little nervous and then as the (Final) came on, I was more nervous because if they started stringing (strikes), it could’ve been hard. We weren’t really stringing strikes today. But they held in there, they never gave up and were tough all the way. I can’t be more proud of them.”
The Davison girls dominated the entire day, finishing first out of the qualifying block with 3,572 pins and then starting its run to the Final with a 1,237-1,104 victory over Utica in the Quarterfinals.
The Cardinals then knocked off Rockford in the Semifinals by a score of 1,272-1,039.
Oxford finished third out of the qualifying block with 3,079 pins, and started a run to its first-ever Final with a 1,177-1,053 victory over St. Clair Shores Lakeview in the Quarterfinals.
Facing a Macomb Dakota team that knocked off No. 2-seeded Lake Orion in the Quarterfinals, Oxford earned a crack at Davison with a 1,230-1,169 win over Dakota.
Oxford head coach JR Lafnear knew the force his team was up against in Davison, and could only admire the brilliance of the Cardinals in the Final.
“That’s a juggernaut,” Lafnear said. “They are tough to beat, and we would’ve had to have been at the top of our game. We are happy with our performance. Of 100 teams in Division 1, 98 would rather be where we are. We are pretty pumped up about it. I’ve got two sophomores and a junior coming back out of this group, so we are excited about the future.”
Like the Oxford girls, the Salem boys finished third out of the qualifying block and began the elimination round with a 1,293-1,132 win over St. Clair Shores Lakeview in the Quarterfinals.
Salem then beat Grand Haven in the Semifinals, 1,312-1,149.
Hudsonville had all sorts of momentum going into the Final after knocking off the reigning Division 1 champion and No. 1 seed out of the qualifying block Wyandotte Roosevelt in the Semifinals by a score of 1,366-1,227.
But Salem was too much for Hudsonville to overcome.
“The boys showed up today,” Hudsonville coach Paul Bentley said. “They bowled good all day. We just ran into a good team in Salem. They bowled well that match.”
PHOTOS: (Top) The Davison girls raise their Division 1 trophy after repeating as champs. (Middle) Salem's boys celebrate the second MHSAA title in program history.
Recent history tells us that perhaps no MHSAA Finals gives us a greater variety of champions than the season-concluding tournaments for girls and boys bowling.
Aside from dominance over the last several seasons by the Flint Kearsley and Bronson girls teams, almost every other division has seen an annual rotation of winners – and we’re guaranteed at least four new singles champions as well this weekend.
Below is a look at possible contenders for all 16 championships, team and singles. Action begins both days at 8:25 a.m. – teams competing Friday and singles Saturday – with Division 1 at Allen Park’s Thunderbowl Lanes, Division 2 at Waterford's Century Bowl, Division 3 at Jackson’s Jax 60 and Division 4 at Muskegon’s Northway Lanes. Find the full list of qualifiers and come back all weekend for coverage from all four Finals sites on MHSAA.com.
Girls Division 1
Team: The last seven seasons have seen seven different champions. Macomb Dakota took the title in 2022 and entered this postseason ranked No. 2, and may be the favorite. The Cougars rolled a 2,989 to win their Regional at Five Star Lanes in Sterling Heights. Reigning Division 1 champion Holt posted the top Division 1 Regional score, however, with a 3,092 at Grand Blanc Lanes, and Utica followed with a winning 3,083 at Century Bowl in Waterford.
Singles: It was easy to anticipate the strength of this field even a year ago as all eight quarterfinalists were either sophomores or juniors. Total, nine of the 16 bowlers who reached match play at last year’s Final will compete again this weekend, headlined by Flushing senior Hannah Reid, the returning runner-up. Novi junior Maddy Gazzarari and Traverse City West senior Taylor Phillips also are back after making the semifinals a year ago. Reid, Phillips and Gazzarari all won Regional titles last week, joined by Utica freshman Ava Mazza, Zeeland senior Rylee Smith, Westland John Glenn junior Tiara Henderson, Macomb L’Anse Creuse North freshman Lauren Zalenski and Lincoln Park senior Brianna Peters.
Boys Division 1
Team: Wayne Memorial made it six different winners in six seasons last year, and it will become seven over seven seasons this weekend as neither Wayne nor any of the previous five champions are in this field. In fact, Dakota and Hudsonville are the only two of the 16-team field to ever win a Finals team title. Jenison and Livonia Churchill did make the semifinals last season, and both were Regional champions last week.
Singles: Reigning champion Brendan Riley is back as a senior for Waterford Mott and Regional runner-up last week, when he finished eight pins behind Utica Eisenhower junior Dylan Harnden – a quarterfinalist last year. Traverse City Central junior Carter Banton also is back after making the semifinals in 2023, and total six of last year’s match play competitors will attempt to contend again. Joining Harnden as Regional champs were Traverse City West senior Cooper Phillips, Portage Central junior Matt Sprau, Walled Lake Northern senior Alex Harwood, Davison junior Joe Merz, Plymouth senior Dakota Law, Macomb Dakota senior Landen Moore and Belleville junior Johnathan Hatcher.
Girls Division 2
Team: Flint Kearsley has won eight of the last 10 Division 2 championships and entered this postseason as the top-ranked team – and should be further motivated after entering match play last season as the top seed but failing to advance. The Hornets were one of three Division 2 Regional champs last week to break 3,000 pins, along with Bay City John Glenn and Tecumseh. Reigning Finals champion Sparta also was a Regional title winner, by 221 pins at Eastbrook Lanes in Grand Rapids, and four of the team’s five regular game bowlers from the 2023 championship match also qualified for singles play this weekend.
Singles: Opposite of the Division 1 scenario, only three of last season’s 16 match play qualifiers are bowling this weekend – Flint Kearsley senior Ava Boggs, Livonia Clarenceville junior Caitlyn Johnson and Goodrich senior Rebekah Muzyk. Boggs and Johnson were Regional champions last week, joined by Bay City John Glenn junior Lacy Jamrog, Tecumseh senior Wendy Ketola, Sparta junior Katelyn VanderWerff, Hudsonville Unity Christian sophomore Jaydan Blouw, St. Clair Shores Lake Shore freshman Sara Augustitus and Sturgis senior Kortnie Matz. Muzyk finished runner-up to Boggs at Richfield Bowl in Flint.
Boys Division 2
Team: Eight teams have won this championship over the last eight seasons, and Division 2 hasn’t seen a repeat since Kearsley did so in 2015 – but the Hornets are in position to achieve the same this weekend. The reigning champ entered this postseason ranked No. 2 and posted last week’s top Regional score in the division, 3,679. Last season’s runner-up New Boston Huron and semifinalist Tecumseh also were among Regional champs last week.
Singles: Reigning Finals champion Zeke Heerema dominated his Regional last week at Spectrum Lanes in Wyoming; the Grand Rapids Christian senior won by 180 pins. Last season’s runner-up Owen Williams also will be back after finishing runner-up to Tecumseh teammate and senior classmate Kaden Salts at their Regional. Heerema and Williams are joined by five more returning from last year’s match play, plus Midland junior Evan Daly who made the Division 1 match play in 2023. Daly won his Division 2 Regional last week as well, joined also by Grand Rapids Northview junior Cadyn Pranger, Kearsley senior Gavin Haack, Madison Heights Lamphere junior Nick Weidenbach, Sturgis senior Lane Malone and Huron junior Bradley Hughes.
Girls Division 3
Team: Flint Powers Catholic last season became the sixth team in six years to win the Division 3 team title, and the Chargers were No. 5 in the latest poll this winter – but did finish 332 pins behind Regional champion Madison Heights Bishop Foley at Richfield Bowl. Last season’s Division 3 runner-up Ishpeming Westwood also will be back, but also was a Regional runner-up this time to Cheboygan at Sparetime Lanes in Cheboygan. Milan was the highest roller at a Division 3 Regional, scoring 3,145 at Flat Rock Lanes to win there by 604 pins.
Singles: Reigning champion Sydney Nichols is back as a senior for Onsted and won her Regional by 91 pins last week at Royal Scot in Lansing. Powers senior Elizabeth Teuber won the Regional at Richfield by 169 pins – and was the Finals champion as a freshman, runner-up as a sophomore and reached match play a year ago. Four more match play qualifiers from last season also are back, and two won Regionals last week as well – Westwood senior Elisa Ketola and Shepherd senior Sarah Montney. Grand Rapids West Catholic sophomore Ashley VanLinden, Three Rivers junior Tayler Mohney, Armada sophomore Reese Cecil and Milan sophomore Maggie Smith also were Regional champs.
Boys Division 3
Team: Only two of last season’s match play qualifiers are back this weekend, 2023 semifinalist Gladwin and quarterfinalist Armada, the latter thanks to winning its Regional. Two other Regional champions broke 3,500 pins – Milan (3,533) at Flat Rock Lanes and Frankenmuth (3,509) at Alert Lanes in Essexville.
Singles: Harvey Zelt was the only non-senior to reach the Division 3 semifinals last season, and the Gladwin now-senior will contend this weekend after finishing second at Sparetime Lanes last week to Standish-Sterling junior Kyler Cook. But Zelt also is one of nine from last season’s match play back in this field, including as well Hopkins junior Charlie Brown III, another Regional champ last week. The other Division 3 Regional winners were Armada senior Jacob Meerschaert, Olivet senior Levi Rigelman, Blissfield junior Blake Terrill, Powers Catholic junior Michael Teuber, Frankenmuth senior Mayson Knop and Central Montcalm junior Paytin Pearson.
Girls Division 4
Team: Reigning champion Taylor Trillium Academy is back after finishing Regional runner-up to Allen Park Cabrini at Ten Pin Alleys in Tecumseh. Bronson last won a Finals title in 2022 and will be seeking a fourth championship in six seasons coming off the Division 4-high Regional score of 2,925 last week at The Bronson Strike Zone. Jonesville and Cabrini made the match play semifinals last season, and Jonesville was another Regional champ last week, by 119 pins at Jax 60 in Jackson.
Singles: Three-time reigning champion Morgan Brunner from Gobles graduated, but a pair of semifinalists from last season will bowl this weekend – New Lothrop senior Isabella Dilts and Trillium senior Abbey Slaven. Five more from last season’s match play also will compete Saturday, including Bronson senior Hadassah Bloom and Burton Atherton junior Reagan Baker coming off Regional championships. They were joined as Regional winners by Dilts, Traverse City Christian senior Gwen Oliver, St. Louis senior Madyson Hartman, Ravenna junior Emma Herremans, Jonesville senior Hallie James and Trillium senior Mackenzie Peplinski, who finished just head of teammate Slaven.
Boys Division 4
Team: Reigning champion Grass Lake competed in Division 3 this season, but 2023 runner-up New Lothrop was a Regional champion last week, as were both of last year’s other semifinalists Bronson and Britton Deerfield. Houghton Lake rolled the division’s highest Regional score, 3,518, to win at Lucky Jacks in Traverse City by 365 pins.
Singles: Reigning champion Alex McCarthy is back as a junior and Regional champion as he and his Saginaw Nouvel teammates took the top three spots and four of the top five last week at Northern Lanes in Sanford. Cabrini junior Bryce Cadaret also is back after finishing 2023 Final runner-up, as are semifinalists Matthew Miller from Burton Atherton and Cole Bradshaw from New Lothrop – those two both seniors this season. Three more from last year’s match play are back as well, including two more Regional champions from last week – Detroit Loyola senior Ryan Champion and Jonesville junior Andrew Sackett. Also winning Regionals were Burr Oak junior Jacob Trennepohl, Atherton junior Michael Demey, Ravenna senior Matt Anton and Traverse City Christian junior Ethan Ehlert.