Sterling Heights — The Division 1 boys and girls state bowling championships provided some high drama Friday afternoon at Sterling Lanes.
Both finals matches came down to the final frame before the Waterford Kettering boys and Oxford girls were left standing as first-time state champions.
Kettering was the morning session’s top qualifier, but it played with fire all afternoon from the quarterfinals until its very final ball.
Hunter Gates, with his team trailing in total pins, stepped up in the 10th frame and delivered a first-ball strike that brought Kettering within six pins of Davison. Gates struck a seven on his next ball, delivering a state title as Kettering triumphantly squeaked by with a 1399-1395 total pinfall victory.
“I was just trying to stay cool, calm and collected,” an emotional Gates said in the immediate aftermath. “We hung on and we grinded. We had some bad games, but we picked each other up and pulled ourselves together.”
Gates finished with a game-high 249.
Starting with the quarterfinals, the championships are decided by two ‘baker games,’ which means each bowler on a five-man team takes two turns as part of a 10-frame game, followed by a game in which every bowler rolls a full game. Kettering trailed its opponents after the two baker games in all three rounds of match play.
It hung on by the skin of its teeth for a 1285-1282 win in the quarterfinals, when a Hudsonville bowler had a chance to tie on his final ball but came up with just seven pins.
In the semifinals, Kettering entered the final game trailing Saline by 29 pins, but it got three 200-plus games, including a 229 from Gates that allowed it to move to the finals.
“They worked hard as a team,” Kettering coach JR Olerich said. “It took us a long time to be a good team but they finished the season on a roll. It’s been a good day today, that’s for sure.”
Oxford girls get it done
Claire Sandstrom was there when the Davison girls claimed their fifth title in six years at Oxford’s expense in 2017.
Macomb Dakota appeared to have bounced back from a 26-point deficit following the baker games. All it needed was a solid 10th frame. But after its first two bowlers left the frame open, Oxford still had hope. Still, Dakota held a six-pin lead when the final roller for each team stepped up.
Dakota took the first shot, but its anchor only managed a seven with a split, and that’s when Claire Sandstrom stepped up big. She delivered a strike on her first ball to give Oxford the boost it needed to overtake Dakota and escape with a 1203-1190 victory.
“I had to stay focused on what I was doing,” Sandstrom said. “It was very nerve-racking, but we closed the gap and did what we had to do.”
Deanna Staser delivered a game-high 204 for Oxford.
“They’ve talked about (2017) and that’s what propelled them to work so hard all summer,” Oxford coach Claude Lafnear said. “They got a taste of the excitement and they really wanted to come back and get it done this year.”
Division 2 boys
Battle Creek Pennfield captured its first Division 2 boys championship in a nail-biter against Coldwater, coming out on top 1264-1257.
Logan Hunnamen rolled a 207 for Coldwater and Alex Keplinger had a 206, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Pennfield’s 61-pin advantage in the baker games.
Pennfield won the Division 3 championship in 2017.
Division 2 girls
Flint Kearsley won its sixth consecutive girls Division 2 championship with a dominant 1186-990 performance in the finals against Tecumseh.
Kearsley, the top qualifier from the morning, also cruised through the semifinals against Carleton Airport (1113-974). Its biggest test of the day came against Sturgis in the quarterfinals, though it still came out 53 pins ahead.
Barbara Hawes delivered a game-high 186 in the championship match.
Division 3 boys
Jonesville topped Corunna for its first Division 3 boys championship by a total pinfall of 1318-1146.
It’s the second consecutive year that Corunna has finished as the runner-up in Division 3 after falling to Battle Creek Pennfield in 2017.
Jonesville got a 246 from Grant Baker and a 238 from Jacob Maynard in the finals.
Division 3 girls
Alma won its second Division 3 championship in two years with a 1205-1072 triumph over Muskegon Oakridge.
Aaliyah Wilson delivered a game-high 181 in the finals for Alma, which narrowly escaped Caro by 16 pins in the semifinals.
Division 4 boys
Bronson won its first state championship with a powerful, 1354-1283 win over St Charles. Brandon Hyska rolled a 236, Bruan Foote a 235 and Kameron Haviland 213 for Bronson.
Michael Pratt had a game-high 255, but it wasn’t enough to hold on to its 24-pin lead following the baker games.
Division 4 girls
Jackson Vandercook Lake won its fifth Division 4 championship in eight years with a 1052-945 win over Brown City.
Mackenzie Johnson rolled a game-high 168 for Vandercook Lake.
Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer.
State bowling finals
What: The state bowling finals continue today with individual championships.
Where: Division 1 at Sterling Lanes (Sterling Heights), Division 2 at Super Bowl (Canton), Division 3 at Northway Lanes (Muskegon), Division 4 at M-66 Bowl (Battle Creek).