Kearsley Boys Take Turn as Champions, Sparta Girls Claim 1st Finals Win
By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com
March 3, 2023
WATERFORD – Since the last time the Flint Kearsley boys bowling team won a state championship in 2015, the girls program had captured six.
The boys are obviously honored to train alongside the girls and celebrate their championship success, but it’s easy to understand why the Kearsley boys wondered when it would be their time again.
That day came Friday at the Division 2 Team Finals.
The Kearsley boys broke an eight-year championship drought, defeating New Boston Huron —another past winner in 2019 — in the championship match by a score of 1,455-1,338.
This was also the first time the boys won a Finals championship without the girls winning one in the same year.
“They earned every bit of it,” Kearsley head coach Bart Rutledge said. “They worked harder than any team, and went out and got it done.”
Kearsley didn’t take the easy route, first qualifying fifth to earn a matchup with 2022 champion Grand Rapids Northview in the quarterfinals.
Kearsley prevailed, 1,345-1,315, and then defeated Tecumseh in the semifinals, 1,401-1,357. Tecumseh was the top seed out of the qualifying block.
In the championship match against New Boston Huron, Kearsley took a healthy 55-pin lead after the first Baker game, added 31 pins to that after the second Baker game, and then also claimed the regular game to win comfortably overall.
“This year, 1 through 7, we were solid,” Rutledge said. “In the past, it was maybe 1 through 4. This year, we had seven guys we could work in.”
Huron was led by Donnie Jacobs, who bowled games of 300 and 298 in match play.
“We set goals at the beginning of the year,” Chiefs head coach Larry Collins said. “We marked off our checklist today. The boys are disappointed, but they’ve got nothing to be disappointed about. They lost to a very good Kearsley team.”
While the boys side was a matchup of previous champions, the girls tournament ended with two teams trying to win titles for the first time.
That honor went to Sparta, which outlasted South Lyon East in the championship match by a narrow margin of six pins, 1,123 to 1,117.
“We didn’t have a lot of high games, but we were very consistent,” Sparta head coach Barb Orlikowski said. “We’ve been working on how to get your spares and stuff, and it worked today.”
Sparta held a 310-264 lead after the two Baker games, and held off a charging South Lyon East team that collected an 853-813 advantage in the regular game.
But it wasn’t enough to overtake Sparta.
South Lyon East advanced to the Final despite being in only its second year of existence as a program.
“I’m real proud of them,” South Lyon East head coach Gerald Raymor said of his team, which consists of six seniors. “They came out last year and I knew I didn’t have much time with them, so I showed them how to throw outside the pattern. They bowled their butts off today.”
Sparta finished fourth out of the qualifying block, then earned a 1,157-1,067 win over Goodrich in the quarterfinal before taking a 1,164-1,098 win over Charlotte in a semifinal.
Orlikowski said her team has qualified for the Team Finals five of the past seven years and advanced to a quarterfinal last year, and that experience seemed to pay off this time.
“I think the girls really got a lot of confidence in themselves,” Orlikowski said. “They knew they could do it. They weren’t intimidated by the other bowlers like they were last year.”
The noteworthy news on the girls side before the championship match was that Flint Kearsley, which entered having won eight of the previous nine titles and was seeking its third straight, were eliminated in the quarterfinal round by Charlotte.
Kearsley was the top seed out of the qualifying block, but was downed by Charlotte in the quarterfinals by six pins, 1,187-1,181.
Gobles' Brunner Closes with 3rd Title, Nouvel's McCarthy Locks Up No. 1
By Tim Robinson
Special for MHSAA.com
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.”