Oxford, Kettering Earn 1st Championships

March 2, 2018

By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half

STERLING HEIGHTS – It’s rare when one MHSAA team championship bowling match comes down to the last frame.

But twice on the same day?

That is what will forever make the 2018 Division 1 Finals at Sterling Lanes so unforgettable.

The Oxford girls and Waterford Kettering boys teams both rejoiced in winning their first titles in school history, as both pulled out their matches in the final frame.

Oxford’s girls team outlasted Macomb Dakota, which entered the regular game of the championship match trailing by 26 pins. Dakota rallied and actually was leading in total pins going into the last two bowlers before Oxford’s duo of juniors Megan Armbruster and Claire Sandstrom made sure the reigning runner-up Wildcats wouldn’t lose in the Final two years in a row.

Armbruster bowled two strikes and finished with 27 pins in her 10th frame to set up the last between Sandstrom and Dakota anchor bowler Danielle McBride.

Unfortunately for Dakota, McBride had an unlucky split on her first ball of the 10th frame, leaving three pins and only being able to pick up two of them.

With the door open, Sandstrom bowled a strike and then added nine more pins in her 10th frame to finish off the title for Oxford.

“A weight was lifted off of my shoulders,” Sandstrom said of when she saw McBride’s ball end with a split. “But I had to stay focused on what I was doing and make my shot.”

For Oxford coach JR Lafnear, it was the end of a 13-year quest for a Finals title, one that nearly resulted in a championship last year before the Wildcats fell to powerhouse Davison in the title match.

“That is what propelled them to work so hard over the summer in practice,” Lafnear said. “Shooting spares and corner pins and doing all that stuff. They were here and got a taste of all the excitement. They really wanted to get it done this year.”

Dakota was seeking its second Division 1 title after winning in 2015.

“They battled through a lot of adversity today and could have gotten knocked out several times,” Dakota coach Kevin Wemyss said. “They showed their character today.”

The boys tournament ended in similar dramatic fashion.

Davison held an 11-pin lead over Kettering after the two Baker games, and the match stayed close until the final frame of the regular game.

The last bowler of the match was Kettering junior Hunter Gates, who stepped up needing 14 pins to give his team the title.

Gates firmly got a strike on the first roll to send the Kettering team jumping for joy, and then the celebration officially began on the next ball when Gates knocked down seven pins.

When he did so, he quickly put his hands over his face and wept tears of joy as he was mobbed by teammates.

“I was just trying to stay cool, calm and collected,” Gates said. “Bowl like I know how I do. My teammates had all the faith in the world in me.”

Kettering head coach JR Olerich said he wasn’t sure if Gates knew he needed only four pins on what turned out to be his final ball.

“If he did, it probably would have been a little bit tougher,” Olerich said. “We all knew.”

Kettering achieved a rarity in that it went wire-to-wire for the title.

The Captains finished first out of the qualifying block before beating No. 8 seed Hudsonville by three pins in the quarterfinals (1,285-1,282) and Saline by 39 pins (1,298-1,259) in a semifinal.

Davison qualified as the No. 2 seed before beating Walled Lake Central in the quarterfinals (1,322-1,227) and Macomb L’Anse Creuse North in the semifinals (1,403-1,335).

Davison was trying to carry the torch at the Finals for the powerhouse girls program, which failed to qualify for the tournament after winning it five of the previous six years.

This was the first time the boys team advanced to the championship match.

“We graduated four starters from last year, so we were really looking at this as a rebuilding year,” Davison coach Robert Tubbs said. “But we went into Regionals and we won the Regional, and we came in here and qualified second. We looked at it as house money. It’s hard for those guys to take it on the chin and say you were four pins from a state championship. These guys, they are not my best average team in my 14 years, but they got more heart, more grit and more determination than any other team I have coached.”

The Oxford girls finished second out of the qualifying block and then earned wins over Saginaw Heritage (1,223-1,207) in the quarterfinals and Holt (1,193-1,152) in the semifinals.

Dakota qualified fifth and then beat Bay City Western (1,164-1,119) in the quarterfinals and No. 1-seed Jenison (1,330-1,157) in the semifinals.

Gobles' Brunner Closes with 3rd Title, Nouvel's McCarthy Locks Up No. 1

By Tim Robinson
Special for MHSAA.com

March 4, 2023

BATTLE CREEK — A few minutes after making history, Gobles senior Morgan Brunner was calm.

No loud celebration, just smiles all around Saturday after becoming the first competitor in the 20-year history of MHSAA girls bowling to win three Singles Finals titles in a row.

“She’s very even-keeled,” said her mother and coach, Karrie Brunner. “She knows she’s got a job to do, and she comes to do it. But she comes to have fun. That was a big part of today. She relaxed and had fun.”

Morgan Brunner rolled to the title, taking first in qualifying and defeating Traverse City Christian’s Brooke Smith 415-303 in the Division 4 final.

But that’s not to say she was expecting an easy time of it.

“I clinched it early, but I was definitely nervous,” she said. “I was nervous all day.”

Brunner dealt with the nerves by concentrating on the task at hand.

“I just tried to stay calm and make my best shots,” she said.

Brunner helped organize the Gobles program, and Saturday’s third-straight title was the latest achievement in a journey that began when she was 2 years old.

“As soon as she could walk,” Karrie Brunner said. "She was pushing the ball down there. I don’t know how many strikes she threw, but she was knocking pins down.”

Morgan hasn’t stopped since.

In the moments after the feat was accomplished, she said it felt like a weight off her shoulders.

“I don’t think it’s going to set in for a while,” she said of her accomplishment. “But it's nice to win.”

Saginaw Nouvel sophomore Alex McCarthy, meanwhile, jumped for joy as he threw the final ball of his boys match.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said afterward. “It’s hard to put it into words right now.”

McCarthy defeated Bryce Cadaret of Allen Park Cabrini, another sophomore, 433-393 in the final.

McCarthy finished 10th in qualifying, then won two matches before meeting Cadaret in the championship.

Cadaret came out hot, starting the match by rolling three strikes in a row.

“It got me back in the match mentally,” McCarthy said.

After a conversation with coach Brian Montini, McCarthy found his groove and never looked back, right through the final ball, which knocked down six pins as he celebrated.

“I had all these thoughts of my coach and all the other coaches and all the hard work I put in through the years,” he said.

Montini, for his part. wasn’t entirely surprised.

“The experience last year helped him,” Montini said, noting McCarthy’s quarterfinal run as a freshman. “We had it in our minds that he was going to do this. And he pulled through.”

Division 4 Final Results - Boys | Girls