Considering the majority of Michigan high school bowling divisions have recently enjoyed frequently-changing champions, it’s especially impressive that Flint Kearsley’s girls will enter Friday’s MHSAA Team Finals seeking their seventh straight Division 2 title and Bronson’s boys will be going for a third straight in Division 4.
Those teams are two of six 2019 champions returning to contend for titles this weekend at four sites: 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 Lansing’s Royal Scott.
Saturday’s Singles Finals, meanwhile, will produce at least five new champions across the eight boys and girls tournaments, as only two of last year’s winners will be back for this season’s final day.
Below is a look at possible contenders for all eight championships, both team and singles. Action begins both days at 8:25 a.m. Click for the full list of qualifiers, and come back to Second Half all weekend for coverage from all four Finals sites.
Division 1 Girls
Team: Reigning Division 1 champion Jenison was among six Regional title winners last weekend, rolling the second-highest score in the Division at 3,700. The high score was produced by No. 4 Lake Orion, which won at Grand Blanc Lanes with a 3,923 that outpaced No. 3 Flushing by nearly 300 pins. New Baltimore Anchor Bay, last season’s Finals runner-up, also won its Regional with a 3,592, and top-ranked Westland John Glenn finished second at Canton’s Super Bowl but did qualify for this weekend. Total, seven of the top 10 in the most recent coaches poll advanced to the Finals. No. 8 Salem, No. 5 Farmington and No. 7 Warren Cousino also won Regional titles.
Singles: Jenison senior Anna Bartz was a Finals semifinalist last season and won her Regional on Saturday with a 1,299, and senior teammate Lauren Slagter also was a semifinalist in 2019 and qualified again. St. Clair Shores Lake Shore junior Dani Decruydt was the Finals runner-up last year and will compete again as well after snagging the final qualifying spot at Sterling Heights’ Five Star Lanes. Flushing senior Evelyn Cano, Lake Orion senior Cheyenne Washington, Wyandotte Roosevelt senior Alicia Rager, Anchor Bay junior Kaitlyn Cavender and Farmington junior Carrington Beaman also will be back for the Singles Finals after making the match play last season. Grand Blanc junior Leah Williams, North Farmington senior Lyric O’Steen, Anchor Bay freshman Melanie Straub, John Glenn junior Anna Maxwell and Roosevelt freshman Angelita Rodriguez also won Regional titles last weekend.
Division 1 Boys
Team: We’re guaranteed a new champion as 2019 winner Farmington Hills Harrison closed its doors last summer. Last year’s runner-up and current No. 6 Oxford had the second-highest Regional score in Division 1 last Friday, rolling a 4,330 to win at Grand Blanc Lanes. No. 3 Macomb Dakota rolled a Division-best 4,354 at Five Star Lanes and is plenty familiar at the Finals, finishing runner-up in 2018. Only five of the top 10 ranked teams advanced to this weekend: Dakota and Oxford will be joined by No. 1 Utica Eisenhower, No. 2 Waterford Kettering and No. 4 Farmington in the field of 18. Farmington edged Kettering by 62 pins at Waterford’s 300 Bowl, and Eisenhower finished just 27 pins back of Dakota at their Regional.
Singles: Walled Lake Central senior Jarrod Willbur and Salem senior Jon Hall both made the semifinals last season, but only two others will be back from that larger match play group – Livonia Franklin junior Ken Kloth and Midland junior Izaac Goergen. Goergen rolled the fourth-highest Regional score (1,357) although it was the second highest at Grand Blanc Lanes behind Davison senior Brendan Ashley’s 1,400. Grand Haven junior Justin Strait, Farmington senior Julien Stout, Utica Eisenhower senior Dylan Kelley, Salem senior Noah Samuels and Dearborn Edsel Ford junior Aiden Newman also won Regional titles.
Division 2 Girls
Team: Top-ranked Flint Kearsley has won six straight Division 2 championships and rolled a 3,844 to win the Regional at Gaylord Bowling Center by more than 550 pins. However, No. 8 Coldwater had the day’s highest Division 2 score, winning its Regional at Kalamazoo’s Continental Lanes with a 3,864, nearly 650 pins better than that field. No. 2 Tecumseh, No. 3 Carleton Airport and No. 7 Mason also are among Finals qualifiers, Tecumseh and Mason after winning Regional championships. Tecumseh has finished Finals runner-up to Kearsley the last two seasons.
Singles: Reigning champion Omani Morales will be seeking a repeat as a senior and won her Regional at Comstock Park’s Westgate Bowl last week with a 1,146. Coldwater junior Noella Keplinger made the quarterfinals last season and was another Regional champ Saturday, rolling a Division 2-best 1,238. Muskegon Mona Shores senior Lindsay Cross, Flint Kearsley junior Allison Eible and Croswell-Lexington senior Katelyn Heiden also will be back this weekend after playing in last year’s match play. Kearsley junior Megan Timm, Warren Woods Tower senior Cassie McCarren, Charlotte junior Abigail Mather and Tecumseh junior Liza Verrier rounded out Saturday’s Regional champs.
Division 2 Boys
Team: Eight schools have finished either champion or runner-up in Division 2 over the last four years, but reigning champion New Boston Huron enters this weekend ranked No. 1 and rolled the highest Regional score in Division 2 last weekend – a 3,972 to win at Westland’s Town and Country Lanes. No. 2 Dearborn Divine Child also was at that Regional, and No. 4 Jackson Northwest, No. 5 Cadillac and No. 7 Owosso also made the Finals, Northwest and Cadillac winning Regional titles. Three other teams broke 3,900 – Westgate Bowl champion Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills and Continental Lanes top two Byron Center and Middleville Thornapple Kellogg.
Singles: Cadillac’s Kyle Vermilyea was the only non-senior to make last season’s Division 2 quarterfinals, and he’ll be back among expected contenders after also finishing as singles runner-up in 2018. Warren Woods Tower senior Noah Tafanelli also qualified for the Finals match play in 2019 and won his Regional last week at Westland’s Oak Lanes, while Grand Rapids Northview senior Dan Frey was a match play Finals qualifier last year and finished second at his Regional last week at Westgate Bowl to freshman teammate Kyle Pranger. Petoskey senior Nathan Waldron, Thornapple Kellogg junior Michael Willshire, Jackson Northwest sophomore Damein Milliman and Allen Park sophomore Nathan Roberts also won Regional titles.
Division 3 Girls
Team: Coloma is the reigning champion and returning. But top-ranked Flat Rock rolled the highest Division 3 Regional score last week, 3,591 at Flat Rock Lanes, and will be seeking its first championship since 2012 after reaching the semifinals a year ago. No. 2 Jonesville, No. 3 Midland Bullock Creek, No. 4 Clare, No. 5 Coloma, No. 8 Caro and No. 10 South Haven all qualified for this weekend as well, with Clare, Coloma and Caro among the Regional champions. Unranked Essexville Garber joined Coloma and Clare in breaking 3,500 pins last Friday.
Singles: Clare senior Jenna Betts is the reigning Division 3 champion and won her Regional on Saturday at Cheboygan’s Sparetime Lanes. Adrian Madison senior Isabell Young also will be back at the Singles Finals after making the semifinals in 2019, and Flat Rock senior Amy Jackson was the Regional runner-up at Flat Rock Lanes and made the quarterfinals last season. Hillsdale junior Karissa Manifold and Otsego senior Carley Blanchard also are returning after advancing to last year’s match play, and Livonia Clarenceville senior Madilynn Kieling made the quarterfinals in 2018 and should be a top contender coming off a Regional title Saturday at Flat Rock Lanes. Caro’s Baylee Hutchinson was the only bowler in Division 3 to outscore Kieling on Friday, posting a 1,238 to win at Richmond’s Strikers Bowling Center. Whitehall junior Karli VanDuinen won her Regional at Wyoming’s Park Center Lanes and should be in the mix too after making the Division 2 semifinals last year. Hopkins junior Kennedy Gill and Birch Run sophomore Cheyenne Brown also won Regional titles.
Division 3 Boys
Team: Seven schools have won Division 3 championships over the last seven seasons, and there will be a new champion Friday as reigning title winner Gladwin did not qualify for the Team Finals. Neither did top-ranked and 2019 runner-up Ogemaw Heights. But No. 2 Jonesville – the 2018 champion – posted the highest Regional team score in Division 3 of 4,054 at Flat Rock Lanes. No. 3 Sanford Meridian, No. 5 Flint Powers Catholic and No. 10 Paw Paw also qualified for this weekend, Powers and Paw Paw winning Regional titles. Belding fell just shy of joining Jonesville over 4,000, winning its Park Center Lanes Regional with a 3,957.
Singles: Cheboygan senior Dawson Campbell snagged the final qualifying spot at Sparetime Lanes to earn the opportunity to go for a repeat after winning last year’s final by 64 pins. Similarly, the opponent he defeated in last year’s semifinals – Muskegon Oakridge senior Josh Felcoski – snagged the final qualifying spot at Park Center Lanes. Saginaw Swan Valley junior Braydon Lemmer, Capac junior Adam Savage and Livonia Clarenceville sophomore Jacob Johnson also will be back after making the match play last year. Savage won his Regional at Strikers Bowling Center with a 1,347, second only to Jonesville junior Logan Teubert’s 1,401 in winning at Flat Rock Lanes. Cheboygan freshman Cole Swanberg, Garber junior Braedyn Hofmeister, Durand senior Cooper Neyman and Remus Chippewa Hills senior Bradyn Fate also won Regional titles Saturday.
Division 4 Girls
Team: Bronson broke Vandercook Lake’s two-year hold on Division 4 last season and will have a chance to repeat after snagging the final qualifying spot at Jackson’s JAX 60. Finishing just above Bronson there was reigning runner-up East Jackson, and both trailed champ Quincy by more than 100 pins at a Regional that also saw No. 5 Hanover-Horton and No. 10 Vandercook not advance. Bronson is ranked No. 2 and Quincy No. 7, and they will be joined this weekend in part by top-ranked Oscoda, No. 4 Bad Axe and No. 8 Sandusky, the only top ranked teams to make the Finals field. Quincy’s 3,414 was the Division 4 Regional high, and the Orioles will be rolling for their first Finals championship.
Singles: Two-time champion Mackenzie Johnson from Vandercook Lake graduated, but last season’s runner-up Dakota Smith will be back in contention now as a senior. Only five non-seniors made the match play last season, and all five have qualified for Saturday’s Finals. Joining Smith from that group will be Rogers City junior Chandra Ganske, Pittsford junior Kathryn McArthur, Hudson senior Kaitlyn Yates and Hanover-Horton junior Kassidy Alexander. Alexander won her Regional last weekend with a Division 4 high of 1,201, while McArthur was first and Yates second at Tecumseh’s Ten Pin Alley. Ishpeming Westwood freshman Kylie Junak, Fowler junior Siera Feldpausch, Byron junior Allison Glass and Bad Axe freshman Destiny Ranquist also won Regional championships.
Division 4 Boys
Team: Two-time reigning champion Bronson will go for the three-peat after finishing runner-up at the JAX 60 Regional, three pins behind Vandercook Lake. But the competition should be fierce, with top-ranked Grass Lake rolling a 3,895 to win its Regional at Ten Pin Alley and Rogers City throwing the Division 4 high 3,903 to win at Lucky Jack’s in Traverse City. No. 2 Whittemore-Prescott was second to Rogers City, and No. 4 Manchester was second to Grass Lake. No. 5 St. Charles was first and No. 3 Ithaca second at Bay City’s Bay Lanes at a Regional that saw No. 6 Unionville-Sebewaing not advance.
Singles: There is lots of opportunity as all eight quarterfinalists from last season graduated. Westwood junior Robert Papp, Burton Bendle junior Nick Love and Grass Lake junior Sean Wyers all are back after making the match play in 2019, with Wyers a Regional champion last weekend. USA senior Ethan Androl rolled the highest Division 4 Regional score, 1,284, and joining him and Wyers as Regional winners were Bronson senior Bryan Foote, Byron senior Kurtis Hatch, Ravenna senior Ethan May and Traverse City Christian junior Hunter Haldaman.
PHOTO: A Clinton Township Chippewa Valley bowler steps into his approach during last weekend’s Division 1 Regional. (Photo courtesy of C&G Newspapers.)
WATERFORD – All Waterford Mott head boys bowling coach Rob Hanson wanted to do was have a personal practice session.
Little did he know it would randomly plant a seed that would eventually produce some state high school bowling history.
More than two years ago, after finding some rare time outside his coaching duties to work on his own game at a local center, Hanson noticed a kid coming in with his grandmother to bowl.
Hanson immediately took notice of how well the kid was bowling and the fact he had a pair of Waterford Mott soccer shorts on. So he asked the kid, then-sophomore Brendan Riley, if he went to the school.
After Riley told Hanson that he did, Hanson had another question for him.
“Why didn’t you try out for bowling?” Hanson said.
Riley said at the time, his mother wasn’t familiar with the bowling team’s schedule and thought it would take too much time away from school.
Once Hanson explained the schedule to the family, Riley ended up trying out after all and made the JV team.
Weeks later, Riley worked his way up to varsity.
The rest, as they say, is history.
After bowling on the varsity for a majority of his sophomore year, Riley as a junior last year won the Division 1 Finals singles championship, capping a rapid rise to the top that might not have happened if not for that chance encounter.
“It was quite surprising,” Riley said. “I wasn’t expecting to see the coach that day. I was just going up to have a good time with my grandma.”
Last year for Riley turned out to be all about his individual success, as he led the Lakes Valley Conference with a 217 average and ended up seeded No. 8 out of the Finals qualifying block.
Riley then rolled to the title, earning a 14-pin win over Mattawan’s Charlie Johnson in the final.
For Riley, his success at the MHSAA Tournament boiled down to one thing: Composure.
“I think the only reason I won was because I had the best attitude,” said Riley, who also was a member of Mott’s soccer team in the fall. “Everyone I bowled in the match play started to get upset at themselves every time they got a split or when they didn’t get a strike.”
As a senior, Riley’s average actually has been down a little compared to last year’s 207, but what his teammates have done has been a bigger testament of his success – and made it even more enjoyable than what he accomplished last year as an individual.
Riley enters Friday’s Regional tournament third on Mott in average behind teammates Dylan Keating and Zechariah Thomas, but that is more a reflection of the improvement those two have shown and how they were inspired by what Riley did last year.
“He hasn’t had a bad year,” Hanson said of Riley. “It’s just that his success is breeding desire for everyone else. His leadership quality is amazing.”
Mott will travel Friday to Century Bowl with four tournament titles, including winning the LVC championship, and a 15-1 record.
Bowling is as fickle a sport as any, but no doubt the Corsairs are contenders if they bowl as they’re capable.
“As a team, it feels a lot better to get more things accomplished beyond just myself,” Riley said.
Riley also has a college future, as he has signed to bowl for Goshen College in Indiana as part of the first recruiting class for the new program.
An individual title last year, team domination so far this season and a future in college bowling? That’s a great crop of greatness that was planted simply by running into Hanson that one day.
“It’s a great story,” Hanson said.
Keith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties
PHOTOS (Top) Waterford Mott’s Brendan Riley finds his shot during a match. (Middle) Riley takes a post-tournament photo after winning last season’s singles championship. (Top photo courtesy of the Riley family.)