Kearsley Girls Return to Top, Divine Child Boys Earn 1st Title

By Jason Schmitt
Special for

March 26, 2021

WATERFORD – The journey began a long time ago for the Flint Kearsley girls bowling team.

Nearly 10 years for some of the team’s seniors.

It didn’t begin when they entered high school four years ago. It began with a bus ride from Dowdall Elementary School to Richfield Bowl back in the second grade. 

“I definitely started bowling for Kearsley when I was at Dowdall, in second grade,” senior Allison Robbins said. “It was fun. And now it’s my last year (at Kearsley) and it’s going to be hard to leave.”

Richfield offers an after-school bowling program for the Dowdall students. It busses the kids over to the bowling alley and offers the future Hornets a chance to get a head start on the competition. And it definitely has paid off.

Kearsley topped the competition at the Division 2 Finals on Friday at Century Lanes in Waterford, defeating reigning champion Mason, 1,186-1,166, in the title-clinching match. It was the school’s eighth Finals championship since 2012.

“We have the after-school program and a middle school program,” first-year head coach Kevin Shute said. “It really gets the ball rolling. By the time they’re freshmen, they’ve got years of bowling under their belt. They already know what they’re doing. It’s just a matter of going out and executing.”

Shute’s team executed from start to finish Friday afternoon. The Hornets were the top-seeded team out of block qualifying, shooting a 3,440, nearly 300 pins better than second-seeded Mason. They defeated Bay City Western in the round of eight before knocking off St. Clair Shores Lake Shore in the semifinals, 1,321-1,065.

Kearsley led Mason by 55 pins after the two Baker games and rolled a clean first frame (five strikes) to get off to a good start in the regular games. Seniors Megan Timm and Emilea Sturk rolled games of 190 and 188 to help their team hold on for the victory.

“It feels really good, especially beating the team that knocked us out last year,” Robbins said, wiping away tears after winning her third Finals team title in four years. “It’s great to be able to get that redemption and show that we are better bowlers than we were that day.”

Despite trailing after the Baker games, Mason did not give up. The Bulldogs collected marks in their first eight frames of the individual game and were within striking range entering the 10th frame. The 2020 champions were led by senior Grace Ann Whipple, who shot a 237 to lead all bowlers in the championship match. 

Mason shot a 3,160 in qualifying and defeated Melvindale and Whitehall en route to the final.

Kearsley will graduate five seniors, all of whom will be bowling in college. Allison Eible will be bowling at Valparaiso University, Rhyan Langdon-Yaklin at Cleary University, Robbins at Tusculum University, Sturk at Florida A&M University and Timm at Trine University.

On the boys side, Dearborn Divine Child rallied past Chelsea to claim its first-ever MHSAA Finals championship. Entering match play as the 3-seed, the Falcons defeated sixth-seeded Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills by 28 pins in the round of eight, then edged out second-seeded Tecumseh by just three pins, 1,385-1,382, in the semifinals.

At that point coach Nick Ploucha’s team was staring at a matchup against fourth-seeded Chelsea, which was fresh off an upset win over top-seeded and reigning champion Jackson Northwest. 

The Bulldogs rolled Baker games of 220 and 190 to take a 74-pin lead over Divine Child into the regular games. 

“There are a lot of teams that scream and yell, hoot and holler, and we just kind of wait our turn,” Ploucha said. “We knew we were 74 pins down but we were patient and we began chipping away at the lead. The kids were dynamite. You could feel them start to move the locomotive, a little bit every frame, and they finished it.”

Sophomore Andrew Carl bowled a 231 to lead the comeback, while junior Paul Scheuher and senior Noelle Jackson rolled games of 226 and 210 as the Falcons shot a team score of 1,022. Seniors Adam Thompson and Shane Green shot 181 and 174 in their team’s win.

Divine Child shot 3,545 in qualifying play, while Chelsea shot 3,442.

Just six years ago, Ploucha inherited a team that was returning zero bowlers. 

“We’ve told the kids over the years to continue to be patient,” Ploucha said. “Last year, we wanted to just make it to the state Finals. We tried to have a good time this year, we wanted to qualify (for match play). Once we qualified, we just said, ‘Let’s see where this takes us.’ ”

Click for bracket results: GIRLS | BOYS

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