By Tim Robinson
Special for Second Half
CANTON — The Division 2 boys bowling championship came down to the final frame Friday, and when it was over, Lowell had completed a three-year plan that culminated in the school’s first MHSAA title.
Trailing by 46 pins after Baker games, the Red Arrows turned it on during regular play, outscoring Eaton Rapids by 90 pins to take the 1,117-1,073 victory at Super Bowl in Canton.
“It came down to the end in every match,” Lowell coach Chris Clark said.
Lowell senior Logan Smith said when the Red Arrows began the 10th frame in regular play, they realized they were close to winning.
“A couple of their guys had open frames in the ninth, and all of us had marks, which was huge for us,” he said. “But it came down to the last guy before it hit us. It was amazing. I cannot believe it.”
Lowell’s success was the culmination of a plan put forth when Clark took over as coach three years ago.
“The first year,” senior Ben Stewart said, “we had the idea that we had some kid who could bowl pretty well. Let’s just make the state meet. Last year, our plan was we knew we could get there, let’s make it to match play.”
The Red Arrows fell just short of that second aspiration, but had a source of motivation this season.
“The third year would have been the plan to take home the trophy, and this year we came through on our goal,” Stewart said.
Lowell was the No. 3 seed after the qualifying round, while Eaton Rapids was No. 8. The Red Arrows downed No. 6 St. Clair Shores Lakeshore in the Quarterfinals and No. 7 Tecumseh in the Semifinals.
Eaton Rapids, the No. 8 seed, rolled past top seed Flint Kearsley in the quarters and No. 4 Byron Center in the Semifinals.
“This whole year, we had great scores all around,” Stewart said. “We took first in (the Ottawa-Kent) conference, we took first at Regionals. I think from the start, we had this mindset that our whole year was for this weekend.”
The Lowell team’s reaction was subdued in the moments after the win was completed.
“If we were in the other team’s shoes, we wouldn’t want them cheering and screaming in your face,” Stewart said. “You have to have respect for the people you’re bowling against, especially if they make it as far as you did.”
The Lowell bowlers celebrated by staying in their rooms and being together as a team.
“We didn’t sleep much last night,” senior Logan Smith said Saturday. “We all roomed together, having fun and cracking jokes. It was a fun time.
“It was pretty unbelievable,” he said of winning the Division 2 title. “My whole life, I never expected to be a state champ. It was something I never expected to get.”
For the Flint Kearsley girls, winning MHSAA championships is something they’ve come to expect. The Hornets’ title-worthy performance Friday was their fourth in a row and fifth in the last six years.
“It never gets old, that’s for sure,” Kearsley coach Robert Ploof said.
His team held off a game Bay City John Glenn squad in the Final, 1,299-1,217.
“Their coaches did a fabulous job,” Ploof said of the John Glenn team. “We bowled that team a couple of times earlier in the season, and they were nowhere as good as they were (Friday). They pushed us right to the end.”
The Hornets won, in part, due to a key substitution in the Final.
Karlee Griffin, who is Kearsley’s No. 2 bowler, was having an off day and feared she would hurt the team. So she asked Ploof to replace her in the lineup, giving Mary Wheeler, a sophomore, a chance to step in.
“I didn’t have a lot of confidence in myself to pull it any further,” Griffin said. “I wanted my team to win, and I didn’t have the faith in myself that I could pull through, and who knows what would have happened?”
Wheeler stepped into the moment and thrived.
“She came in and threw a big double that helped us win,” Ploof said.
It’s a group of Hornets that Ploof says gets along with each other like no team he’s had in 12 years at Kearsley.
“There’s no drama,” he said. “They’re having a good time and they enjoy it, and they fight for each other.”
A strong feeder program helps, too: Kearsley’s middle school program has five teams, and the junior varsity also thrives.
“That’s what you’ve got to have,” Ploof said. “We’re pretty fortunate as far as that goes.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Lowell’s boys pose with their MHSAA championship trophy. (Middle) Flint Kearsley’s girls, holding up their trophy from winning a Division 2 Regional last weekend.