Sisk Prevails in Dramatic Finish, VanDuinen Ends On Championship Note

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

March 5, 2022

CANTON – All Zack Sisk needed was a chance, even as slim as it appeared at the time.

Facing 2021 Division 2 singles champion Kyle Pranger of Grand Rapids Northview in the championship match Saturday at Super Bowl, Sisk – a junior at Gibraltar Carlson – saw Pranger leave a split of five pins in his second-to-last ball of the 10th frame.

Pranger knocked down one more. And that left Sisk an opportunity – if he could throw three strikes in his 10th frame to force a roll-off.

“I was ready to pass out,” Sisk said. “I’m not going to lie.”

You wouldn’t have known Sisk was facing such enormous pressure, because he rolled three strikes in a row to tie Pranger at 409 and force a roll-off where each bowler essentially redid the ninth and 10th frames.

After each bowled a strike in the new ninth frame, Sisk stayed hot and bowled three straight again in the 10th frame of the roll-off to make it seven in a row.

Pranger answered by bowling two strikes, but left one pin on his third ball of the frame, and Sisk began celebrating the first singles title in the six-year history of Carlson’s program.

“When he got the one, I was just like ‘All right, I’ve got to go up there and throw as many good shots as possible,’” Sisk said. “Obviously I did.”

Tom Sisk, Zack’s Dad and the program’s co-coach along with his wife and Zack’s mother, Kim, said he felt bad that Pranger couldn’t get the tying strike because he threw a great ball.

But Tom Sisk obviously was overjoyed with pride over what his son achieved.

Gibraltar Carlson bowling“(Pranger) is such a good bowler,” Tom Sisk said. “When he got that one, we went ‘Oh my gosh, (Zack) has got a chance.’ He had to throw three. Fantastic, and you couldn’t have asked for anything better. He handled the pressure very well.”

In the girls event, Whitehall senior Karli VanDuinen finished off a fine career by claiming the singles title, defeating Wayland senior Bella Harnish in the final 460-381.

VanDuinen advanced to the quarterfinal round last year, used that experience to her benefit in her last MHSAA Tournament.

“It feels good,” said VanDuinen, who will continue bowling at Arkansas State. “I’ve been wanting it since my freshman year. But I’ve been working hard in general for college. To finally be able to win it was a nice send-off.”

Seeded No. 3 after the qualifying block, VanDuinen defeated Chloe Fish of Cedar Springs in the round of 16, 409-310, before squeaking out a one-pin win (357-356) over Livonia Clarenceville freshman Caitlyn Johnson in a quarterfinal.

VanDuinen then downed another Wayland bowler, junior Kadence Bottrall, in a semifinal by a score of 441-385.

“During the qualifying, we thought her throws were looking pretty good,” Whitehall coach Tyson Jasperse said. “She looked comfortable out here. She was reading the lanes really well, and she seemed pretty confident.”

Pranger, who helped lead Northview to the team title Friday, was seeded No. 1 out of the qualifying block Saturday.

Sisk was seeded sixth, starting his journey to the title by defeating Brad Spalsbury of Eastpointe 447-436 in the round of 16.

Sisk then got past Jackson Northwest freshman Logan Jahr in a quarterfinal, 473-423, before edging Owen Williams of Tecumseh in a semifinal by just two pins, 463-461.

GIRLS Results | BOYS Results

PHOTOS (Top) Gibraltar Carlson’s Zack Sisk and Whitehall’s Karli VanDuinen earned Division 2 singles championships Saturday at Canton’s Super Bowl. (Middle) Sisk celebrates his roll-off victory. (Click for more from Champions Photography.)

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