Preview: Finals Fields Full of Past Champs

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

February 28, 2019

Seven reigning team champions and five singles title winners are returning for this weekend’s MHSAA Girls & Boys Bowling Finals.

But this sport annually seems to allow for a higher degree of the unexpected at this highest level of competition – so expect to see a few surprise contenders enter the mix with the past achievers.

Below is a look at possible contenders for all eight championships. This season's Finals will be bowled at the following centers: Division 1 at Allen Park’s Thunderbowl Lanes, Division 2 at Waterford’s Century Bowl, Division 3 at Muskegon’s Northway Lanes and Division 4 at Battle Creek's M-66 Bowl. Click for the full list of qualifiers, and come back to Second Half all weekend for coverage from all four Finals sites. Action begins both days at 8:25 a.m.

Division 1 Girls

Team: Oxford moved up from runner-up in 2017 to champion last season and continues to roll, posting the highest Regional score last week (3,778) in all of Division 1 and winning a Regional that saw three of the top five scores of the weekend. Flushing (3,762) and Lake Orion (3,742) followed Oxford that day, while Jenison (3,754) and New Baltimore Anchor Bay (3,743) also broke 3,700 in winning their respective Regionals.

Singles: Macomb Dakota senior Danielle McBride will be back seeking a repeat championship after winning last season’s final match by 103 pins. Jenison junior Lauren Slagter also is back after reaching last season’s semifinals. Total, eight of 16 from last year’s Finals match play will compete Saturday; Lake Orion junior Cheyenne Washington and Wyandotte Roosevelt junior Alicia Rager were in that group and won Regional titles last week. Holt senior Gabriella VanHorn, North Farmington junior Lyric Osteen, St. Clair Shores Lake Shore senior Jessica Ludwick and Plymouth senior Madalyn Harden also are coming off Regional championships.

Division 1 Boys

Team: Reigning champion Waterford Kettering is back after finishing second at its Regional to Farmington-Harrison – which had the highest Regional score in Division 2 at 4,209. Oxford won its Regional and was right behind in overall high score at 4,202 pins, and nine of 18 Finals qualifiers rolled at least 4,100.

Singles: Rockford junior Matt Buck is back after winning last year’s title by 27 pins. There could be a number of new contenders as none of the six Regional champs from last week made the match play at the Finals a year ago. Caledonia freshman Alec Bisterfeldt, Midland sophomore Izaac Goergen, Kettering senior Hunter Gates, Macomb Dakota senior Ryan James, Livonia Franklin junior Aaron Wright and Brownstown Woodhaven senior Jeffrey Lizewski all are coming off Regional wins.

Division 2 Girls

Team: Flint Kearsley has won five straight Division 2 titles and rolled a 4,093 at last week’s Regional – outpacing the rest of Division 2 by nearly 500 pins while placing the top two individuals. The teams Kearsley defeated in last season’s semifinal and final – Carleton Airport and Tecumseh, respectively – both are back this weekend after finishing first and second at their Regional, Airport with the division’s second-highest score at 3,610.

Singles: Five of last season’s match play qualifiers are back in the singles field, led by Kearsley junior Imari Blond – she was the runner-up last season and won her Regional last week. Warren Woods-Tower junior Cassie McCarren and Dearborn Heights Annapolis senior Emily Gurin both made the match play in 2018 and won Regionals last week as well. Charlotte sophomore Abby Mather, Hastings sophomore Ashland Hoyt and Fruitport sophomore Jessica Plichta also won Regional titles.

Division 2 Boys

Team: Reigning champion Battle Creek Pennfield and runner-up Coldwater both are back after Pennfield won last year’s final by seven pins. They finished third and second, respectively, at last week’s Regional to Sturgis, one of four teams in the division to roll 4,000 or higher. Tecumseh, a semifinalist last year, rolled the high at 4,099. Pennfield actually is going for a third straight team title – it won Division 3 in 2017.

Singles: Reigning champion Alec Keplinger, a senior from Coldwater, and runner-up Kyle Vermiyea, Cadillac junior, both are back. Escanaba junior Josh Worthen and New Boston Huron senior Zach Taylor both qualified for the Finals in 2018 but didn’t advance to the match play; they could take the next step after both winning their Regionals with scores above 1,300. Grand Rapids Northview junior Dan Frey, Sturgis senior Aaron Brown-O’Dell, Charlotte freshman Carson Kohler and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s senior Daniel Madigan also won Regional titles.

Division 3 Girls

Team: Alma earned its second team title in three seasons in 2018, but finished third at its Regional last week won by 2017 Finals champion Birch Run. The Panthers’ 3,631 was second-best in Division 3 to Flat Rock’s 3,710. Michigan Center at 3,624 was second to Flat Rock at their tournament but with the third-highest score in the entire division.

Singles: Ishpeming senior Megan Wilkins made the semifinals last season, and Livonia Clarenceville junior Madilynn Kieling made the quarterfinals. Three others who made the match play last season also are back this weekend, including Muskegon Oakridge senior Alyssa Major, who won her Regional last week. Flat Rock junior Amy Jackson, Paw Paw junior Emily VanderBurg, Caro junior Nicole Orton, Midland Bullock Creek senior Allison Woollard and Gladwin senior Bailey Weston all were Regional champs as well.

Division 3 Boys

Team: There will be a new champion of this division, and reigning runner-up Corunna is in contention although the Cavaliers finished second at their Regional. Birch Run won their tournament with a division-high 3,914 pins, 30 more than Livonia Clarenceville’s Regional title-winning score of 3,884 that was second-highest in the division.

Singles: Portland senior Jack Dalman was the Finals runner-up last season and returns, as does Sanford Meridian junior Kyle Nohel after making the semifinals. Boyne City sophomore Michael Deming rolled the highest Regional score in the division at 1,279, while Saginaw Swan Valley sophomore Braydon Lemmer won his right behind at 1,276 and Livonia Clarenceville freshman Jacob Johnson won his at 1,274. Hudsonville Unity Christian junior Kurtis Montsma, Grand Rapids South Christian senior Jeremy Kwekel and Richmond senior Zach Ray also won Regional titles.

Division 4 Girls

Team: Vandercook Lake has won the last two Division 4 championships and will enter Friday coming off a Regional title as well with a 3,667 that was nearly 200 pins better than any other team in the division. The second and third highest scores last week actually came from the same Regional, by Bronson (a semifinalist in 2018) and East Jackson. Both broke 3,400 pins.

Singles: Reigning champion Mackenzie Johnson kicked off her final high school postseason by winning her Regional last week by 109 pins. Traverse City Christian senior Savannah Bluemel, Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian senior Lydia France, Manchester senior Alyvia Hock, Burton Bendle senior Rylan Lambert and Brown City senior Courtney Wheeler also are coming off Regional titles. 

Division 4 Boys                                              

Team: Bronson won last season’s team title by 74 pins and will go for the repeat after rolling the fourth-highest Regional score – but second at its tournament to champion Napoleon’s 3,723. Grass Lake, third place at that Regional, and champs Baldwin and Riverview Gabriel Richard also cleared 3,700 pins, Gabriel Richard with a division-high 3,763. 

Singles: Although last season’s champion and runner-up graduated, Bronson senior Brandon Hyska won the title in 2017. Vandercook Lake senior Korey Reichard won their Regional at 1,351, 54 pins more than anyone else in Division 4. Baldwin senior Ryan Kolenbrander, Ishpeming Westwood sophomore Robert Papp, Unionville-Sebewaing junior Ethan Androl, New Haven Merritt junior Cameron O’Connor and Allen Park Cabrini freshman Christopher Stevens also won Regional titles.

PHOTO: Macomb Dakota senior Danielle McBride rolls a frame during the Macomb County Tournament on Jan. 19. (Photo courtesy of C&G Newspapers.)