By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
All eight MHSAA bowling champions from 2014 will return for this weekend’s Team Finals on Friday, and four who have won individual titles will compete in Singles Finals on Saturday.
But that hardly means we should expect everything to fall into place as it has in the recent past.
Contenders old and also new abound for this weekend’s tournaments, the 12th since bowling became an MHSAA-sponsored sport in 2004. Read about them below.
All Team Finals are Friday, and Singles Finals are Saturday. Click for the full list of qualifiers, and come back to Second Half all weekend for coverage from all four Finals sites.
Girls Division 1
Team: Davison is rolling on a three-year championship streak and enters the weekend as again a Regional champion – although its 3,376 qualifying score was only third highest in the division as a whole. Macomb Dakota (4,194) and Westland John Glenn (4,141) both broke 4,000 pins and have plenty of experience at this level – John Glenn was runner-up to Davison last season, and Dakota fell to Davison in the Semifinal. Dakota sophomore Tamera Robinson (1,271) won the individual Regional title at Star Lanes in Sterling Heights while three more teammates finished among the top nine; John Glenn placed four among the top eight and three among the top four at Canton’s Super Bowl.
Singles: Last season’s MHSAA Final was a matchup of John Glenn bowlers, and both return – junior Emily Dietz, the champion, was eighth at her Regional with a 1,183, while junior Julia Huren was second at 1,333. Total, nine of last season’s 16 match play finalists will compete again this weekend, but four of the top five Regional qualifying scores were by bowlers not part of that group – Canton sophomore Megan Macunovich (1,345), Brighton freshman Natalie Klein (1,331), Zeeland sophomore Olivia Hoeksema (1,308) and Caledonia freshman Macalin Rodriguez (1,300).
Boys Division 1
Teams: Reigning champion Detroit U-D Jesuit will be back after rolling a 3,705 to finish second at its Regional at Woodhaven Lanes. But 12 qualifiers broke 4,000 pins, with Saginaw Heritage (4,325) and Canton (4,231) topping the list. Heritage went on to place four individual qualifiers among the top 10 of that competition, led by senior Derrick Norman; his 1,569 easily was the highest Regional score in any division. Reigning runner-up Grand Haven and semifinalist Oxford both also made the field, although both finished as Regional runners-up last weekend.
Singles: Norman made the quarterfinals last season, and he’ll be joined in the field this weekend by Grand Haven sophomore Jimmy Mitchell, a semifinalist in 2014. Clarkston junior Jacob Kersten, Hudsonville senior Travis Schreer and Macomb Dakota senior Justin Taylor also are back after making last winter’s match play, Kersten as a Regional champion last weekend. Flint Carman-Ainsworth junior Jordan Nunn would’ve been at any other Regional, with his 1,400 placing second to Norman at Lansing’s Royal Scot.
Girls Division 2
Team: This follows a similar theme as Division 1, with reigning champion Flint Kearsley seeking its third championship in four seasons and entering as a Regional winner – although with only the sixth-best score from last weekend. Warren Regina (3,645) topped the list, with Grand Rapids Northview (3,591), Charlotte (3,517), Bay City Western (3,517) and Tecumseh (3,492) also joining Kearsley (3,490) as winners. Western, last season’s Finals runners-up, then placed four among the top five in the singles standings with co-champs in juniors Alexia Richard and Storm Butler.
Singles: Kearsley returns two of last year’s 16 match-place qualifiers including semifinalist Hannah Ploof, a junior, who won her Regional rolling 1,140. Regina sophomore Madchen Breen will return for her second Finals after rolling the highest Regional score in any division – 1,267 – with Coldwater senior Patricia Neely posting the second-highest in Division 2 at 1,182. Kearsley senior Dani Doolan, Charlotte junior Malorie Kiplinger and West Branch Ogeamw Heights senior Riley Griffin also are among qualifiers who made Finals match play in 2014.
Boys Division 2
Team: Ortonville Brandon was the lone qualifier to break 4,000 pins at a Division 2 Regional, its 4,403 more than 70 pins better than anyone else in the division after it made match play but fell to eventual champion Kearsley in the Quarterfinals last season. Kearsley also won a Regional title last weekend at 3,971, the second-highest score in Division 2, and with junior Chad Stephen and senior Anthony Kelley making the Singles Finals.
Singles: Stephen and Trenton senior David Owens were quarterfinalists last year, and they’ll be joined in the field by four more 2014 match play qualifiers: Kelley, Marysville senior Tyler Fields, Parma Western senior Andrew Mulliken and Jackson Northwest senior Brian Lewis. Fields rolled a division-best 1,388 to win his Regional at Westland’s Oak Lanes, while Bay City Western junior Dylan Brown rolled a 1,355 to win at Monitor Lanes in Bay City and come in with the division’s second-highest singles pinfall.
Girls Division 3
Team: Ishpeming is storming back into the Finals after making its first championship match and finishing runner-up to Croswell-Lexington last season. The Hematites had a Division 3-best Regional score of 3,410, with Jonesville next-highest winning at 3,385 at Monroe’s Nortel Lanes. Three of Ishpeming’s five bowlers from last season’s run are back and also made the Singles Finals – seniors Kaylee O’Connor and Kassy Harsila and junior Kassey Kytola.
Singles: Corunna junior Hannah Eldridge finished first in the 2014 qualifying block and made the Semifinal, and she’ll return this weekend after qualifying 10th at her Regional. Croswell-Lexington senior Katie LaPorte and Standish-Sterling junior Dayna Schmidt also will be back from last season’s match play, Schmidt as a Regional champion last weekend. Dundee sophomore Breanna Johnson (1,155) and Leslie senior Tiffany Hills (1,117) were the high scorers at Regionals for this division; neither made the Finals a year ago.
Boys Division 3
Team: Fremont is the reigning champion and has won two of the last three seasons, but will have some heavy competition after qualifying second from its Regional. Jackson Lumen Christi (3,937) and Armada (3,909) both won Regionals to pace Division 3 after both falling in last season’s Quarterfinals. The favorites will be keyed by standouts; Fremont is led again by senior Sam Brandt, last season’s high roller for his team in the Team Final and then Singles Final champion. Lumen Christi has a collection of strong seniors including Zach Ulicny, the reigning Singles Final runner-up. Reigning Division 4 champion Jonesville qualified third behind Lumen Christi and Flat Rock at Nortel Lanes.
Singles: Last season’s finalists will be joined this weekend by four more who made the 2014 match play: Essexville-Garber senior Chase Badalamenti, a returning semifinalist, plus Portland junior Marcus Zinn, Wyoming Godwin Heights junior Zac Vos and Lumen Christi senior Matt Nicoson. Cheboygan senior Matt Duffiney won his Regional by nearly 150 pins with a division-best 1,331, and Romulus Summit Academy freshman Ryan Wright burst on the scene with a 1,275 to win his tournament.
Girls Division 4
Team: Vandercook Lake, Sandusky and Rogers City have dominated Division 4 since its creation in 2010, with Vandercook Lake the two-time reigning champion and owner of four MHSAA titles total. But the Jaykawks posted only the second-highest Regional score (3,538), with St. Louis rolling a 3,545 to edge Ithaca by a mere eight pins at Mount Pleasant’s Riverwood Resort. Rogers City (3,483) again was a Regional champion after finishing Finals runner-up a year ago, and Burton Bendle (3,409) also broke 3,400 to win its Regional by nearly 400 pins.
Singles: Although all four of last season’s semifinalists graduated, seven match play qualifiers are again in the field. Sandusky senior Keri Malloy, Unionville-Sebewaing senior Kyleigh McCarthy and Rogers City junior Rebecca Bannasch and junior Alana Wirgau all bowled in the quarterfinals last season, while Hanover-Horton junior Emma Davis, St. Ignace senior Sharman Colegrove and Oscoda senior Paige Huebel also made the Round of 16. Clinton junior Miranda Porath and Sandusky junior Leslie Williams made the Finals but missed match play in 2014, but they’re back with the top Regional scores in the division of 1,143 and 1,121, respectively.
Boys Division 4
Team: Three teams broke 3,900 to win Regional titles – Sandusky (4,057), St. Charles (3,988) and Hanover-Horton (3,923). St. Charles, winner of the first Division 4 title in 2009, is led by sophomore Kyle Tuttle, last season’s Singles Final champion. Reigning team champion Jonesville is in Division 3 this season and runner-up Ithaca didn’t qualify, but Sandusky was a semifinalist a year ago and also had three make the Singles Finals led by junior Brett Hancock.
Singles: This session of the entire weekend might have the most returning star power. Joining Tuttle are Rogers City junior Bailey Budnik, the 2013 Singles champ, and St. Louis senior Zach Fenby, last winter’s runner-up. Riverview Gabriel Richard junior Austin Kraemer made the semifinals last season and won his Regional last weekend with a division-best 1,372. Hanover-Horton senior Alex Wyckoff, Kalamazoo Hackett senior Zack Isaacs, Galesburg-Augusta senior Joshua Wayne and St. Louis senior Jeffrey Fisher also are back from last season’s match play. Pewamo-Westphalia senior Chase Thelen didn’t make last season’s Finals – but did break 1,300 as well last weekend to win his Regional.
PHOTO: Rogers City’s Bailey Budnik was the Division 4 Singles champion in 2013 and returns as a contender this weekend.
With a season to go, Gobles senior Morgan Brunner finds herself already in elite company as one of only three bowlers in MHSAA history to win two Finals girls singles titles – and with an opportunity this winter to become the first to win three girls championships.
Brunner is coming off her second-straight Division 4 Finals triumph, won in March. She and her mother Karrie – who coaches Gobles’ teams – helped start the school's bowling program, and over these first few seasons Morgan also has bowled during the regular season as part of the boys team before joining the girls bracket for the MHSAA Tournament.
"Being on the boys team, and people thinking I’m going to bowl with the boys, it was nice to be able to bowl with the girls and it felt more normal. I bowl so many outside tournaments, obviously all on the girls side, and there’s just as much competition on the girls side as there is on the boys side.
"I feel like I am (a role model). I’ve definitely had people tell my parents that their kids are watching. I haven’t personally had anyone come up to me, but I do see people watching me sometimes."
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