Preview: Challengers in Striking Distance

March 1, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

On one hand heading into this weekend’s MHSAA Bowling Finals, we have the Flint Kearsley girls – winners of five of the last six Division 2 titles and top-ranked again.

On the other, we’re guaranteed at least three new team champions Friday – including both in Division 1 – and five of eight singles winners Saturday could be new as well.

Below is a look at possible contenders for all eight championships. This season's Finals will be bowled at the following centers: Division 1 at Sterling Heights’ Sterling Lanes, Division 2 at Canton’s Super Bowl, Division 3 at Muskegon’s Northway Lanes and Division 4 at Battle Creek's M-66 Bowl. Click for the full list of qualifiers, and come back to Second Half all weekend for coverage from all four Finals sites. Action begins both days at 8:25 a.m.

Division 1 Girls

Team: Davison has won the last two Division 1 championships and five of the last six, but did not qualify for Friday’s team tournament. Macomb Dakota, the 2015 champ, rolled the highest Division 1 Regional score of 3,783 and was ranked No. 1 in the most recent coaches poll. Also winning a Regional title and just behind on total score was unranked Caledonia, which posted a 3,781. Jenison also broke 3,700 in finishing runner-up to Caledonia at Bowlero in Battle Creek.

Singles: Six of eight quarterfinalists from last season graduated. But Brighton senior Natalie Klein will be back after finishing runner-up, as will 2017 match play qualifiers Heather Buck from Rockford, Carly Scanlon from Dakota and Lexi Smigiel from Clinton Township Chippewa Valley. Buck, a junior, won her Regional with a score of 1,304, 61 pins more than anyone else bowled in the division during singles competition last weekend.

Division 1 Boys

Team: Reigning champion Salem did not qualify this year, but five teams rolled over 4,000 pins last weekend including reigning runner-up Hudsonville. The No. 9-ranked Eagles still finished only third at their Regional behind unranked Caledonia (4,127) and Jenison (4,028). No. 3 Macomb L’Anse Creuse North rolled the highest score of the weekend at 4,144, followed at its Regional by unranked St. Clair Shores Lake Shore at 4,061. Top-ranked Wyandotte Roosevelt also qualified, and was a semifinalist at the 2017 Final. 

Singles: Roosevelt senior Gabe Cassise, Hudsonville senior Brendan Bentley and Bay City Western senior Ryan Blanchard all made the quarterfinals last season and will be back for Saturday’s Final, Cassise coming off a Regional title. Four champions and a runner-up broke 1,300 pins last weekend – Wayne Memorial senior Anthony Kaminski-Thibodeaux (1,353), Jenison junior Dustin Smith (1,346), Traverse City Central sophomore Wyatt Beckstead (1,341), Chippewa Valley senior Keegan Ratobylski (1,332), and Davison senior Brandon Kreiner (1,317), who was runner-up to Beckstead but also made the Finals match play last year.

Division 2 Girls

Team: Kearsley dominated its Regional, winning by 317 pins at 3,783. But Coldwater was a little bit better by total score, winning its Regional at 3,799, and Carleton Airport took a title with a similarly impressive 3,756. Kearsley was top-ranked in the latest coaches poll, while Coldwater – a semifinalist last season – was No. 7 and Airport was unranked. No. 2 Battle Creek Pennfield also qualified, third at the same Regional with Coldwater.

Singles: All four semifinalists last season graduated, but Kearsley sophomore Imari Blond, junior teammate Alexis Roof and senior teammate Barbara Hawes and Gaylord junior Amber Daoust all are back from the quarterfinals. All four bowled in the same Regional last weekend, won by Blond with a 1,207. Airport junior Makayla Souva (1,262), New Boston Huron senior Danielle McComb (1,257) and Adrian junior Shayleen Helf (1,240) posted the top three Regional singles scores taking the top three places, respectively, at Nortel Lanes in Monroe. Battle Creek Pennfield junior Haley Hooper also qualified after winning Division 3 last season.

Division 2 Boys

Team: Reigning champion and currently top-ranked Lowell will be back after qualifying second at its Regional, but this weekend’s competition looks to be as strong as in any division. Reigning runner-up but unranked Eaton Rapids was a Regional champion and one of five teams that went over 4,100 pins. No. 7 Sturgis won its Regional at 4,107, while No. 5 New Boston Huron had the highest score in all of Division 2 at 4,366, followed at its Regional by Riverview (4,287) and No. 3 Tecumseh (4,241), the latter a semifinalist last season. Reigning Division 3 champion Battle Creek Pennfield was right behind Sturgis at 4,079 and could be in the mix. 

Singles: Riverview senior Johnathan Cole may be the favorite; he won his Regional by just a pin over New Boston Huron junior Drake Bazzy, 1,431-1,430, and also is the lone quarterfinalist from last year who will be back Saturday. The next closest Regional score last weekend was a 1,368 by Sturgis junior Zachary Gage. Pennfield junior James Ruoff was runner-up at his Regional after winning the Division 3 championship last season.

Division 3 Girls

Team: Birch Run won its first championship in 2017 and is ranked No. 3, and qualified second to No. 2 Alma (3,453) at their Regional at Candlelite Lanes in Bridgeport. The Panthers posted the top score in Division 3 overall, five pins ahead of No. 5 Caro, a semifinalist last season. Reigning runner-up and current No. 4 Gladwin also will be back, and top-ranked Coloma qualified third at its Regional at M-66 Bowl in Battle Creek.

Singles: With Hooper and Pennfield in Division 2, only two of last season’s quarterfinalists will be back in the field – Caro senior Corrine Schmaltz and Ishpeming senior Caitlyn Lee. Birch Run senior Tessie Birchmeier rolled the highest Regional singles score in Division 3 at 1,159, with Muskegon Oakridge senior Zoe Cerchiori just behind at 1,149 and Lee’s junior teammate Megan Wilkins also a Regional champ at 1,146. Wilkins made the Finals match play in 2017.

Division 3 Boys

Team: Reigning champion Pennfield as noted above is in Division 2 this season. Cheboygan was a Division 3 semifinalist last year and might be a favorite to win its first team title since claiming Division 2 in 2009 – it won its Regional by more than 100 pins with a 4,039 last week. But Canton Prep rolled 251 better in winning its Regional at Flat Rock Lanes, and Monroe Jefferson had the second-highest Regional score in the division despite finishing runner-up, at 4,166. None of those teams are ranked; three of the top four in the poll did qualify for this weekend, but only top-ranked Ithaca (3,610) as a Regional champ.

Singles: With Ruoff in Division 2, last year’s semifinal opponent and now-junior Adam Jackson from Caro is the highest returning placer. Also back from the quarterfinals will be Wyoming Kelloggsville senior Matt Postma. Jonesville senior Grant Baker posted the top Regional score, 1,267 at Flat Rock Lanes, and Jefferson senior Dillon Tocco (1,252) followed him with the second-highest Regional score in the division.

Division 4 Girls

Team: Vandercook Lake re-emerged last season for its first team title since 2014 and fifth championship overall in 12 years of MHSAA bowling. Despite being ranked No. 10, the Jayhawks won their Regional by 274 pins with a score of 3,498 – second-best in Division 4 last weekend behind only No. 4 Dryden’s 3,502. Top-ranked Unionville-Sebewaing also was a Regional champion, at 2,981, 14 pins ahead of No. 2 Brown City at Bay Lanes in Bay City.

Singles: Five of last season’s eight quarterfinalists graduated, and the reigning champion didn’t qualify for this Saturday’s Final. But Vandercook Lake junior MacKenzie Johnson rolled a 1,196 to win her Regional after making the final eight a year ago, and Rogers City junior Chasta Ganski also qualified for Saturday as a returning quarterfinalist. Johnson and junior teammate Preslee Stahl (1,166) rolled the two highest Regional scores in Division 4, followed by Burton Bendle senior Faith Lynn (1,131), another Regional champ. 

Division 4 Boys

Team: Vandercook Lake matched the success of its powerhouse girls team with its first title last season, and the No. 3 Jayhawks posted the highest Division 4 boys Regional score at 4,071 last week. No. 7 Unionville-Sebewaing also topped 4,000, winning its Regional at 4,017. Top-ranked Bronson finished runner-up to Vandercook Lake, and No. 2 St. Charles – a semifinalist last year – finished third at USA’s Regional to qualify. Rogers City also was a semifinalist last year and won its Regional last weekend.

Singles: Bronson junior Brandon Hyska is the reigning champion after a dominating performance in 2017, and he won his Regional last week by four pins, 1,338-1,334 over Homer senior Evan Howell. Jayhawks junior Korey Reichard, who advanced to the semifinals last season before facing Hyska, also will return. Genesee senior Luke Cantrell (1,303) and USA junior Nicholas Lutz (1,306) also broke 1,300 in winning Regional titles last week. Niles Brandywine junior Dustin Ward rolled a 1,316 to finish third at Airport Lanes in Jackson behind Hyska and Howell, and Ward also made the Finals match play in 2017.

PHOTO: Flint Kearsley has won five of the last six Division 2 girls bowling championships – leading to an impressive display of trophies. (Photo courtesy of the Kearsley girls bowling program.)