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

Kearsley Girls Erase Last Year's Early Exit with 9th Title in 11 Seasons

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

March 1, 2024

WATERFORD — It might seem impossible that a team with eight MHSAA Finals titles over a span of 10 years would ever enter anything hungry for redemption. 

But that was the case for Flint Kearsley’s girls bowling team going into the Division 2 Final on Friday at Century Bowl.

Last year, the Hornets suffered a disappointment they weren’t used to feeling, getting knocked out in the Quarterfinal round after earning the No. 1 seed during the qualifying block. 

That defeat was way more on the minds of Kearsley all offseason, rather than the previous eight state titles. 

“That was a debacle,” first-year Kearsley head coach Jeff Vanier said. 

But that failure last year was long forgotten when this year’s competition was over, as Kearsley reclaimed its throne by beating Bay City John Glenn in the championship match, 3-1. 

This was the first year of a new format in the knockout stage where the team that won three out of five Baker games was declared the winner. The previous format awarded the team with the most pins following two Baker games and a regular game. 

John Glenn won the first game of the Final, 177-152, but Kearsley stormed back winning the second game 173-143, the third game 235-134 and the fourth game 165-122 to clinch its ninth title in 11 years. 

The most pivotal moment for Kearsley might have come in a Quarterfinal match against Sturgis. Kearsley lost the first game (171-159) and won the second (179-145) before both teams struggled in the third game. 

The Hornets ended up prevailing, 128-124, rallying after anchor bowler Ava Boggs struck out in the final frame.

“That gave us a 2-1 lead, and we went on from there,” Vanier said.

Kearsley finished off Sturgis in the fourth game, 210-165, and then recorded a three-game sweep of New Boston Huron to advance to the Final.

John Glenn was No. 1 out of the qualifying block before earning a five-game win over Marshall in the Quarterfinals and a four-game triumph over Tecumseh in the Semifinals. 

“We made a lot of spares today, but when we got to the final match, we weren’t making spares,” John Glenn head coach Andy Gwizdala said. “During the Baker matches earlier in the day, we averaged 184, which means we made spares. We were consistent and made spares. That’s what we came here to do. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to finish it in the Final.”

Still, there was a lot for John Glenn to feel good about. 

The Bobcats avenged losses from the Quarterfinal round of the tournament each of the last two years and don’t graduate any bowlers as they look ahead to 2024-25.

“We hope to be back next year,” Gwizdala said. 

Click for full results.