Clarkston's Stephens, Waterford Mott's Riley Finish Strong to Clinch D1 Titles

By Perry A. Farrell
Special for

March 4, 2023

ALLEN PARK – With the loudest cheering section at the MHSAA Division 1 singles bowling championship Saturday at Thunderbowl Lanes, Clarkston sophomore Katie Stephens captured her first title with a 411-307 victory over junior Hannah Reid from Flushing.

“My dad is like that all the time,’’ said Stephens, who shook off a 19-pin deficit in the semifinal to advance on the way to claiming the title. “I was nervous. I was tired. I started and finished pretty good. I was happy about that. I thought the shot was tougher in the main arena. I didn’t start off well the first two games, but I finished well.’’

It was also a happy day for lefty Brendan Riley of Waterford Mott. The eighth seed after qualifying, he kept the tradition alive of left-handers doing well in the tournament by defeating Charlie Johnson of Mattawan 377-363 to claim the title.

“I had a 25-pin lead after the first game, so it took some of the pressure off,’’ said Riley. “I think the shot here is an advantage for left-handers. I struggled a little bit early, then I started to find the line. I was locked in during the championship game.’’

Johnson said nerves may have gotten the better of him in his first game when he shot 152.

“I was rushing,’’ he said. “Once I slowed down, I started carrying. It was my first time getting this far, so there were some nerves.’’

Reid made the match play by just four pins as the 16th seed. She took advantage of her good fortune, downing top-seeded New Baltimore Anchor Bay senior Melanie Straub 362-345. Straub had qualified first with a 1,272, followed by Traverse City West’s Jordan Lafleur at 1,218 and Stephens at 1,199.

“In the championship I struggled with open frames,” Reid said. “I tried to fix my shot and improve my carry. It was tough.’’

Other top seeds were able to survive as Lafleur eliminated Taylor’s Lily Adams, 363-323, and Stephens advanced against Karley Chouinard of Westland John Glenn 404-334. 

Macomb Dakota’s Haylie Patterson struggled with spares and lost to Alyssa Tanner of Traverse City West, 376-286. Maddy Gazzarari moved into the semifinals by beating fellow sophomore Sophia Matheson of Utica Eisenhower, 355-335.

Reid proved that opening win was no fluke by defeating Alyssa Tanner of Traverse City West, 384-307 to advance to the semifinal against Gazzarari. Reid won that matchup by a close margin, 373-370.

Stephens moved into the semis by defeating Grace Polega of Utica Ford, 440-362. Her semifinal opponent was Taylor Phillips of Traverse West, who had eliminated teammate Lafleur, 405-383. Stephens then bested Phillips 349-326.

On the boys side, Dylan Harnden dominated qualifying, posting four games more than 240 and a total 1,416 to outdistance Nate Vanderbeek of Wyoming, who shot 1,371. Nick Schaberg of Holt was third at 1,368 and Traverse City Central’s Carter Bandon fourth at 1,363.

Harnden moved past Ethan Brown of Livonia Churchill, 428-331, to begin match play while No. 2 seed Vanderbeek was edged No. 15 Dylan Jablonski of Canton, 412-399.

Harnden’s run was ended in the quarterfinals by Riley, 368-335, as Riley moved into the semifinal against Traverse City Central sophomore Carter Banton, who had defeated Griffin Henderson of Swartz Creek, 412-374.

Rockford’s Tony Deluccia moved into the other semifinal with a 448-336 win over Monroe’s Evan Eagle. Johnson was his opponent after he eliminated Dylan Jablonski of Canton, 439-370.

Riley won his semifinal 421-368, and Johnson made the final with a 420-361 victory.

Division 1 Final Results - Boys | Girls

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

By Tim Robinson
Special for

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