By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
This could be a weekend of unprecedented successes for Michigan high school bowlers.
The Davison and Flint Kearsley girls teams both will roll in Friday's Team Finals for their fifth championships over the last six seasons. Four 2016 singles champions also return, with St. Charles' Kyle Tuttle looking to add to his already record title streak by becoming the first and only four-time MHSAA champ.
This season's Finals will be bowled at the following centers: Division 1 at Sterling Heights’ Sterling Lanes, Division 2 at Canton’s Super Bowl, Division 3 at Battle Creek's M-66 Bowl and Division 4 at Lansing’s Royal Scot. Click for the full list of qualifiers, and come back to Second Half all weekend for coverage from all four Finals sites. Team Finals are Friday and Singles Finals are Saturday; both will begin at 8:30 a.m.
Division 1 Girls
Team: Top-ranked Davison has won four of the last five Division 1 championships and finished runner-up in 2015. The Cardinals won their Regional with 3,857 pins, the second highest count in any division, and a number of other expected contenders joined them – No. 2 Brownstown Woodhaven, No. 4 Macomb Dakota and No. 8 Saginaw Heritage also were among Regional champs, and unranked Caledonia claimed its Regional title with a score better than two of the ranked winners.
Singles: Davison senior Taylor Davis can close one of the most accomplished careers in MHSAA history after winning the singles title last season and making the Semifinals as a sophomore. She won her Regional by nearly 200 pins with a score of 1,417. The only other Division 1 competitor to approach her score was Caledonia senior Brittney Schnicke (1,390), another of the top bowlers in the state the last few seasons and Davis’ Quarterfinal opponent in 2016. St. Clair Shores Lakeview sophomore Stephanie Schalk also made the Semifinals last season.
Boys Division 1
Team: Nine teams cleared 4,000 pins at their Division 1 Regionals, including reigning Division 1 champion and top-ranked Wyandotte Roosevelt – which rolled 4,100 to win last week. The division-high score came from unranked Flushing (with 4,301), which didn’t even qualify for the Finals a year ago. Hudsonville will return to the Finals after rolling the second-highest Regional score, 4,229; other Regional champs were No. 2 Belleville (4,101) and unranked Clarkston (4,059) and St. Clair Shores Lakeview (3,911).
Singles: Both finalists from last season are back and returning through the same Regional; 2016 runner-up Gabe Cassise, a Roosevelt junior, won that Regional with a 1,291, while reigning champion and senior Brad Demarle from Warren Mott qualified with a ninth-place 1,165. Four of the six Division 1 bowlers who cleared 1,300 pins during Regionals did so at Grand Haven’s Starlite Lanes, led by Buccaneers’ senior Jimmy Mitchell at 1,395 – he also was one of only five non-seniors to make the Finals’ Round of 16 last season. Davison junior Brandon Kreiner was another of those five, and he won his Regional last week with 1,325 pins. Westland John Glenn junior Matt Essa (1,308) also cleared 1,300 in winning a Regional title.
Division 2 Girls
Team: Top-ranked Flint Kearsley also has won four of the last five championships in this division and three straight. Its 3,910 Regional score was nearly 850 pins better than that field and the tops of all girls teams in any division. Total, eight of the top 10 ranked teams qualified for Friday’s Finals, with No. 8 Charlotte posting the second-highest Regional score in the division of 3,790.
Singles: Last season’s runner-up, now-junior Sydney Urben of Wayland, and 2016 semifinalist Madchen Breen of Warren Regina, now a senior, both are back this weekend after finishing runners-up in their respective Regionals. Jackson senior Kaylee Collier finished ahead of Urben with the highest Regional score in the division, 1,282, and Taylor Truman senior Miranda Norris was right behind winning her Regional with a 1,280. Charlotte senior Brooke Noecker and Jackson senior Jamie Bleiler both made the Quarterfinals last season as well.
Boys Division 2
Team: Reigning champion Lansing Eastern stunned the field last season – but the Regional results this season make it looks less likely for another unranked team to pull off the same surprise. Top-ranked New Boston Huron rolled the highest Regional score in any division, 4,371, and No. 3 Flint Kearsley (4,091) and No. 4 Coldwater (4,191) also won Regional titles with 4,000-plus pins. Kearsley won Division 2 in 2014 and 2015 before finishing runner-up last season to the Quakers, who didn’t qualify for this weekend.
Singles: Like in Division 1, the reigning singles champion will be back for more – Sturgis senior Austin Robison qualified second at his Regional with a score of 1,304. Marquette senior teammates Liam Robinson (1,297) and Hunter Negri (1,191) both made the Round of 16 last season and qualified first and third, respectively, at their Regional last weekend, and Kearsley senior Bryce McKerchie made the Quarterfinals last season and won his Regional last week by 260 pins with the highest score in Division 2 of 1,488. Warren Lincoln senior Tyler Kolassa made the Round of 16 in Division 3 last year after winning the title in 2015.
Division 3 Girls
Team: Division 3 has celebrated nine different champions over the last nine seasons, and this tournament could be wide open as well. Only one of the top five (No. 2 Battle Creek Pennfield) and four of the top-10 ranked teams advanced to this weekend. Unranked Gladwin posted the top Regional score in Division 3, 3,481, followed closely by No. 7 Birch Run at 3,477. Pennfield did win its Regional as well. Last season’s Division 4 champion, Ithaca, also is in Division 3 and qualified.
Singles: Gladwin senior Kasidey Easlick was the only non-senior to make last season’s Semifinals, and she qualified again placing ninth at her Regional. Grand Rapids West Catholic senior Katelyn LaBelle also made the Quarterfinals last season and won her Regional last weekend. Three other Regional champs broke 1,200 pins – Marine City’s Alyssa Crampton, Adrian Madison’s Alexis Cable and Gladwin’s Carley VanTiem.
Boys Division 3
Team: Saginaw Swan Valley is the reigning champion and entered the postseason ranked No. 1, but just qualified with a third-place at its Regional. Seventh-ranked Battle Creek Pennfield – last season’s runner-up – is no doubt ready to step in and claim its first MHSAA team title, and rolled a division-best 4,045 to win its Regional. Four of the six Regional champions were not ranked – creating some intriguing possibilities for an under-the-radar team to step in as the division’s sixth different champion this decade.
Singles: Only one of last season’s semifinalists was a senior, but only one of the other three qualified to compete this weekend – reigning runner-up Grant Baker, a Jonesville junior, who qualified ninth at his Regional. Three others from last season’s Round of 16 also will be back; Battle Creek Pennfield sophomore James Ruoff (1,288) and Dundee senior Quinn Auten (1,348) both won their Regionals, and Wyoming Kelloggsville senior Gage Nickerson was fourth at his behind teammate and champion Zach Postma (1,227). Richmond junior C.J. Wagner is one to watch as well; he won his Regional by 138 pins with an incredible 1,453. And Adrian Madison junior Isaac Solis (1,256) made the Division 4 Semifinals last season.
Girls Division 4
Team: Jackson Vandercook Lake is ranked No. 1 and won Division 4 titles in 2011, 2013 and 2014. The Jayhawks won their Regional with a pinfall of 3,239, second in the division behind only unranked Traverse City Christian (3,248). Second-ranked St. Louis also was a Regional champ as the top five ranked teams all qualified for this weekend.
Singles: This could be anyone’s competition, with Flint Beecher/Mount Morris senior Shaierica Gould and Unionville-Sebewaing junior Tiffany Lutz the only qualifiers from last season’s Round of 16 back; both were Regional runners-up last weekend. Vandercook Lake sophomore Mackenzie Johnson rolled the high score for Division 4 Regionals at 1,086, followed by Rogers City junior Stephanie Marx at 1,077.
Boys Division 4
Team: All seven seasons with a Division 4 tournament have seen a new champion emerge – but that trend may come to an end this weekend. St. Charles, which won Division 4 in 2010, won its Regional last weekend with a score of 4,003, ahead of reigning Finals champion Sandusky (3,793). Those were two of the top three scores in the division last weekend, but there is hope for another new winner. Vandercook Lake, a frequent power and the Division 3 runner-up in 2009, posted the second-highest score in the division in winning its Regional with a 3,879.
Singles: After becoming the first to win three MHSAA individual titles last season, St. Charles senior Kyle Tuttle can become unprecedented one more time in his final high school competition. He won his Regional rolling a 1,203, second-highest in the division only to Bronson sophomore Brandon Hyska (1,206), who made the Round of 16 last year. Genesee junior Luke Cantrell was Finals runner-up last season and won last week’s Regional with a 1,118. Vandercook Lake sophomore Korey Reichard and Sandusky senior Cody Johnston also made the 2016 Round of 16, and Whittemore-Prescott freshman Tyler Watkins is an intriguing prospect after winning his Regional with a 1,192.
PHOTO: Davison's girls bowling team celebrates last season's Division 1 championship. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)