Kearsley Boys Finish Memorable Repeat Story with 3 Must-Win Victories

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

March 1, 2024

WATERFORD — This wasn’t the plan of attack for Flint Kearsley in its effort to repeat as Division 2 boys bowling champion. 

The Hornets had seen a lot go their way for most of the MHSAA Team Final at Century Bowl on Friday. But upon advancing to the championship match against Grand Rapids Northview, Kearsley saw things go astray and lost the first two Baker games in the new format, where teams have to win three of five Bakers to clinch.

“We had only one more to lose,” Kearsley head coach Bart Rutledge said. “I told the guys that it was a better story coming back from 2-0.”

That story for Kearsley did indeed have a happy ending, as the Hornets rallied to win the final three Baker games and prevail over Northview, 3-2.

Kearsley became the first boys team in Division 2 to repeat since the Hornets pulled off the feat in 2015, in the process denying 2022 champion Northview its second title in three years in what was a terrific final match between the last two champions. 

Northview earned a 185-173 win in the first game and a 186-169 triumph in the second before Kearsley conducted its rally.

The Hornets prevailed 189-171 in the third game, 204-174 in the fourth game and 173-150 in the deciding fifth game. 

There’s an adage in sports that it’s usually harder to repeat than it is to win the second time, and Rutledge said that was the case for his team throughout the year.

“We actually struggled throughout the year,” he said. “Last year, it seemed like we won everything all year long. This year, we won a couple of tournaments, but we had problems finishing. We did at the right time. I got up this morning and had that feeling just like last year that we were going to win. It looked like it was going that way, It ended up that way, but not in the way I expected.”

Kearsley had little trouble all day long until the Final, first finishing in the top spot out of the qualifying block. The Hornets then recorded three-game sweeps over Auburn Hills Avondale in the Quarterfinals and Tecumseh in the Semifinals.

Northview finished second out of the qualifying block and recorded four-game wins over Bay City Western in the Quarterfinals and Carleton Airport in the Semifinals. 

“We just didn’t get any breaks the last three games,” Northview head coach Jason Pranger said. “There were a couple of shots we got nine on and a couple of shots they threw good and they got all 10 on. They doubled a few times, where we would go strike and spare. When you are going strike and spare, you don’t build scores as teams that are throwing double (strikes). It’s tough. I think nerves got a little of us right at the end with some spare shooting. Other than that, it’s bowling.” 

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