Unforgettable Afternoon Nets Traverse City Christian Boys' 1st Finals Title

By Scott DeCamp
Special for MHSAA.com

March 1, 2024

MUSKEGON – Lunch may not have been sitting too well with members of Traverse City Christian’s boys bowling team Friday afternoon.

The Sabres struggled, by their standards, during the qualifying block of the MHSAA Division 4 Final at Northway Lanes and didn’t know if they’d even make match play.

They felt much better before dinner time. Traverse City Christian ripped through bracket play and captured the first Finals title in the school’s boys bowling history, capping the run with a three-games-to-one victory over Jonesville in the championship match.

About 90 minutes later, Traverse City Christian’s girls team seized the state title for a Sabres sweep.

“When (the boys bowlers) went into lunch, we didn’t even know if we made it into the (bracket) – the final eight – because they weren’t doing so hot,” Traverse City Christian coach Andy Radtke said. “I was really disappointed because they worked so hard. To me, that was the hugest thing. 

“And then to come out and shoot the 256 Baker right off the bat, I mean, it changed the narrative.”

Traverse City Christian shot 256 in its first game of a Quarterfinal sweep against Houghton Lake. The Sabres shot 256, 200, and 193 in the quarters. In a 3-1 Semifinal win over St. Charles, the Sabres went 201, 200, 201, and 169.

In the Final, Traverse City Christian and Jonesville alternated Baker game wins. The Sabres took the first (180-169) and third (194-161) and the Comets won the second game (196-181). TCC won the decisive fourth game by the slimmest of margins, 200-199, when the last Jonesville bowler threw a decent ball but left the 4-6-7-9-10 pins in what bowlers call the “Greek Church.”

“That last shot was unbelievable. That was still a good shot and maybe a seven-count was what we needed (to win the fourth game), but with the Greek Church, that was brutal,” said Jonesville coach Matt Molinaro, whose 2018 squad captured the Division 3 title at Northway Lanes. The Comets won a Division 4 championship in 2014 as well.

“I had a couple of guys that were struggling,” Molinaro said. “They couldn’t get through it. Then it was too late in the game to try and sub out. … I really thought we were going to be OK. After that third game, I grouped them up and said, ‘Hey, you know we’re winning this, right?’ (The bowlers responded) ‘Yeah, we’re winning.’ And then we came out and they answered. They did everything they had to do.”

Brent Wheat, the “mechanics guy” on Traverse City Christian’s coaching staff and Radtke’s son-in-law, wasn’t certain at the time what the Sabres needed to do to pull off the fourth game. 

In fairness to Wheat, he hustles back and forth between boys and girls competitions and he was trying to keep an eye on Traverse City Christian’s girls squad that was taking on Jonesville in a Semifinal.

“It took a minute to process because we thought that we weren’t going to win that game (game four), and then (the Jonesville bowler’s) ball went unfortunately a little heavy. And then we were doing the math, trying to figure it out, and then it clicked, ‘Oh, my gosh, it was one pin,’” Wheat said. “There’s this elation down there, all these happy thoughts, and I have to come down to the girls. We’re in a battle with Jonesville in the Semifinals for the girls.”

Traverse City Christian was the final of eight squads to make it out of the 16-team qualifying block. The Sabres totaled 3,107 pins in qualifying rounds. Houghton Lake finished first in qualifying at 3,472. 

Jonesville was second in qualifying at 3,377. In best-of-five match play, Jonesville beat Riverview Gabriel Richard in the Quarterfinal (3-1) and Saginaw Nouvel Catholic Central in the Semifinal (3-0).

Traverse City Christian’s team featured two seniors, one junior, one sophomore, and two freshmen, which makes Wheat pretty optimistic about the future as well.

For Sabres senior Tristan Lhamon, the time was now to realize the dream.

“This means a lot. These are some of my best friends, and I get to do it with them. It’s an amazing thing, and I love it,” Lhamon said. “We are really good at persevering. We have to battle some of the top D-1 teams, and we are so bonded by Jesus Christ, our Lord and savior, all of us, and we work together, we fight, and we’re really good at it.”

Wheat called the Traverse City Christian bowling program “a family business.”

Business was really good Friday.

“My in-laws and I started doing this 16 years ago,” Wheat said. “Our first year here, we took one boy, he was in ninth grade, and we said, ‘Man, wouldn’t it be cool to make it some day?’ And then  we won one of these with the girls over COVID and it was like, ‘Gosh, this is unreal. We never thought that it was even possible.’ And then a dream happens today … I’m speechless, really.”

Click for full results.