ALLEN PARK – Denny O’Neill described Cheyenne Washington as a four-year stalwart in the Lake Orion program, coachable and a leader.
He could now describe her as a champion as she rallied from a 19-pin deficit against Lauren Slagter of Jenison to claim the Division 1 Finals singles title Saturday at Thunderbowl Lanes, 392-353.
Slagter opened in the second, fifth and seventh frames to open the door for the Dragons’ senior.
“I just wanted to keep making good shots and have fun,’’ said Washington. “It really didn’t matter about the score. Instead of playing in, like the girls were playing, I had to play outside. I had to change balls because the boys pushed the oil to the outside, but that’s the line I like playing. It’s a great feeling.’’
“She’s my team captain this year, and she has great family support,’’ O’Neill said. “She has been a pleasure to coach – very trainable and she listens.’’
Slagter advanced to the final by beating Carrington Beaman of Farmington, 483-385, while Washington eliminated Anna Maxwell of Westland John Glenn, 418-351.
In the boys division, Utica Eisenhower’s Dylan Kelley was trying to add a singles title to his team’s championship on Friday. Standing in his way was smooth lefty Izaac Goergen of Midland. Splits on Lane 5 had Goergen searching for an adjustment. He found it and claimed the title against Kelley, who couldn’t find the pocket.
“I had been throwing urethane all day, the purple Hammer, and we noticed the shot was tighter,’’ said Goergen. “With the girls pushing the oil inside, I had to change balls. I went to my pearl Idol, and it made all the difference. I guess it worked.’’
The Macomb Area Conference bowlers dominated the top spots in both divisions as junior Dani Decruydt of St. Clair Shores Lakeshore was the top qualifier in the girls division at 1,268. Second was Samantha Mason of Sterling Heights (1,267), and third was Allyson Sand of Macomb L’Anse Creuse North (1,262).
Decruydt made a quick exit as the top seed as she was knocked out by 16th seed Kayla Mazure of L’Anse Creuse North (389-382). Mazure advanced to face Washington, who eliminated Noelle Phillips of Traverse City West, 459-417.
Second seed Mason was knocked out by the 15th seed, freshman Angelita Rodriguez of Wyandotte Roosevelt, 372-332. Rodriguez moved on to face Beaman, who had defeated Evelyn Cano of Flushing, 391-380. Beaman overcame some thumb issues and dispatched Rodriguez to advance to the semifinals.
The top remaining seed was Sand, who downed of Carmen Corona of Warren Cousino, 448-336.
Jenison also had two bowlers make it to the round of eight as Anna Bartz beat Ondrea Ream of Traverse Central 403-315 and Slagter knocked out Katherine Dybicki of Belleville, 421-378.
LCN’s Sand and Mazure lost in the round of eight; Sand to Jenison’s Slagter, 472-373, and Mazure to Washington 341-329. Jenison’s Bartz was eliminated by Maxwell, 380-326.
In the boys division sophomore Carter Milasinovich of Utica Eisenhower was the top marksman at 1,395 followed by Noah Samuels of Salem (1,377) and Goergen of Midland (1,365).
The upsets in the boys division started early as well as Samuels lost to sophomore Ben Augustitus of St. Clair Shores Lakeshore (446-393). Salem teammate Jon Hall also lost to a sophomore, Justin Strait of Grand Haven (436-378). That ended the weekend for Salem, which finished runner-up in the Team Final on Friday.
Strait ended Augustitus’ day in the quarterfinal, 409-355, to advance to the semis.
Eisenhower’s Milasinovich also didn’t last long, as he was beaten in the first round of match play by Matt Buck of Rockford (437-373). However, teammate Kelley advanced to the quarterfinal round, opening match play with a win over Julihanni Alcini of Roseville.
Marco Ramirez of Brownstown Woodhaven advance to the semifinals by beating Buck, 484-378 while Goergen bettered Davison’s Brendan Ashley, 428-380. He then faced Kelley, who had beaten David Schaberg of Holt, 474-386.
WATERFORD – All Waterford Mott head boys bowling coach Rob Hanson wanted to do was have a personal practice session.
Little did he know it would randomly plant a seed that would eventually produce some state high school bowling history.
More than two years ago, after finding some rare time outside his coaching duties to work on his own game at a local center, Hanson noticed a kid coming in with his grandmother to bowl.
Hanson immediately took notice of how well the kid was bowling and the fact he had a pair of Waterford Mott soccer shorts on. So he asked the kid, then-sophomore Brendan Riley, if he went to the school.
After Riley told Hanson that he did, Hanson had another question for him.
“Why didn’t you try out for bowling?” Hanson said.
Riley said at the time, his mother wasn’t familiar with the bowling team’s schedule and thought it would take too much time away from school.
Once Hanson explained the schedule to the family, Riley ended up trying out after all and made the JV team.
Weeks later, Riley worked his way up to varsity.
The rest, as they say, is history.
After bowling on the varsity for a majority of his sophomore year, Riley as a junior last year won the Division 1 Finals singles championship, capping a rapid rise to the top that might not have happened if not for that chance encounter.
“It was quite surprising,” Riley said. “I wasn’t expecting to see the coach that day. I was just going up to have a good time with my grandma.”
Last year for Riley turned out to be all about his individual success, as he led the Lakes Valley Conference with a 217 average and ended up seeded No. 8 out of the Finals qualifying block.
Riley then rolled to the title, earning a 14-pin win over Mattawan’s Charlie Johnson in the final.
For Riley, his success at the MHSAA Tournament boiled down to one thing: Composure.
“I think the only reason I won was because I had the best attitude,” said Riley, who also was a member of Mott’s soccer team in the fall. “Everyone I bowled in the match play started to get upset at themselves every time they got a split or when they didn’t get a strike.”
As a senior, Riley’s average actually has been down a little compared to last year’s 207, but what his teammates have done has been a bigger testament of his success – and made it even more enjoyable than what he accomplished last year as an individual.
Riley enters Friday’s Regional tournament third on Mott in average behind teammates Dylan Keating and Zechariah Thomas, but that is more a reflection of the improvement those two have shown and how they were inspired by what Riley did last year.
“He hasn’t had a bad year,” Hanson said of Riley. “It’s just that his success is breeding desire for everyone else. His leadership quality is amazing.”
Mott will travel Friday to Century Bowl with four tournament titles, including winning the LVC championship, and a 15-1 record.
Bowling is as fickle a sport as any, but no doubt the Corsairs are contenders if they bowl as they’re capable.
“As a team, it feels a lot better to get more things accomplished beyond just myself,” Riley said.
Riley also has a college future, as he has signed to bowl for Goshen College in Indiana as part of the first recruiting class for the new program.
An individual title last year, team domination so far this season and a future in college bowling? That’s a great crop of greatness that was planted simply by running into Hanson that one day.
“It’s a great story,” Hanson said.
Keith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties
PHOTOS (Top) Waterford Mott’s Brendan Riley finds his shot during a match. (Middle) Riley takes a post-tournament photo after winning last season’s singles championship. (Top photo courtesy of the Riley family.)