Zeeland Girls Rally to Win Final 2 Games, Claim 2nd Division 1 Title

By Perry A. Farrell
Special for MHSAA.com

March 1, 2024

ALLEN PARK – Brianna Fortney burst into tears after she missed a spare in the deciding fifth game Friday during the MHSAA Division 1 Final at Thunderbowl Lanes.

But they weren’t tears of frustration. Zeeland had locked up the championship, and she was so overcome with joy she couldn’t hold back before her team finished a closing 158-137 win over South Lyon.

“A lot of people thought we couldn’t do it,’’ said Fortney, a senior. “My sister left, and we had another bowler leave. This is so special. I’m just so glad we were able to do this.’’

Zeeland – a cooperative program of West and East high schools, coached by Tony DiLaura – won the first game 185-176. South Lyon rebounded to win the second 149-147 and then the third 193-144. But Zeeland managed to pull out a 150-149 thriller to force a fifth game.

“We had a couple of bowlers out sick, and they weren’t even able to practice until Thursday,’’ said DiLaura. “We pulled out the fourth game, and I thought we had a chance. This means so much for our program.’’

The Team Bowling Finals went to a new format this season with five Baker games determining the champion.

The championship was Zeeland's second, joining the Division 1 title won in 2020.

Utica’s freshman core created the most excitement on the way to the championship match. Freshman Ava Mazza struck in the fourth game of her team’s Semifinal against Zeeland to force Game 5 with her team down 2½ to 1½. Utica proceeded to win the fifth game to force a five-frame roll-off – won by Zeeland 94-92.

South Lyon advanced to the championship match by eliminating Oxford in three games.

Utica, with three freshmen in the lineup, surged during the qualifying block to claim the top spot in match play at 3,197. South Lyon was second at 3,192 and Macomb Dakota third at 3,103, one pin better than Zeeland. Holt, Oxford, Grand Blanc and Grand Haven rounded out the match play field. 

Oxford swept Dakota in the Quarterfinals to face South Lyon, which had downed Grand Blanc 3-1. Utica advanced with a 3-2 win over Grand Haven to face Zeeland, which edged Holt 3-2 in their Quarterfinal.

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