After their distant fourth-place finish at the pre-conference tournament Saturday, the Bucs had a redemption opportunity as the league-favorite Falcons came to Sherman Bowling Center.
A split in the Baker games, followed by a hot Bucs’ performance in the first regular game and a reversal by East Kentwood in the second, led to a tie in the point standings, despite a pin advantage for Grand Haven.
“This felt very good. I’m greedy, so I wanted the win, but this feels good,” said first-year coach Joy Cooper. “Saturday was the first time we saw the whole conference together and we finished in fourth out of sixth. I think that was a wake-up call. It was smooth sailing up to that point. It showed us we are good, but not that good.”
The Bucs started out hot in the Baker matches, picking up four points with a 192-169 win in the first. The Eagles evened up in the second Baker match, winning 203-172, and took the lead on the Baker total, 372-364.
Down 6-4, but inspired by their effort, Grand Haven needed to retake momentum in the first regular match to stay in the game. A season-high mark for Jonathon Garland did the trick, as he knocked down nine straight strikes to finish out his game at 265.
Collin Prokopoec followed with another stellar performance, chipping in 200, while Micah Yager added a 199. The triple-threat each won their head-to-head matchups for one point each, as well as powering the Bucs’ 982-791 total win, worth four points.
Heading into the second regular game Grand Haven led 11-8.
East Kentwood would not go down quietly, improving their team total by nearly 100 pins in the second regular game to take three individual wins and the total win. Yager and Jaxon Batka picked up individual wins with scores of 183 and 134, to keep the point-swing to five points, bringing the match to 13-15.
In the end, Grand Haven forced the tie with a win in the regular-round pin total outscoring Eagles 1,823 to 1,673, to bring on a 15-15 tie.
“They will be doing one million spare drills tomorrow,” Cooper said. “Between splits and spares, we dropped a lot of pins today.”
One Buc bowler didn’t have to worry about many spares, particularly in his first regular game.
“Johnathan is a beast,” Cooper said. “He is extremely focused. The fangs are out every time he rolls. He throws the ball hard and is just dedicated to ripping it every chance he gets.”
Garland’s first regular game was the best he has rolled so far this season, thanks to a wild streak of nine strikes from the fourth frame through the end of the game. The feat is a matter of control, according to Garland. The trick is staying cool as the pressure builds with each illuminated X.
“It’s luck mostly,” he said of the streak. “Luck and being able to get it off my hand correctly. Once it is off your hand you can't do anything about it, so you just have to make sure you do everything right before.
“The pressure goes up a little bit with each strike, but I’ve been bowling for such a long time that I’m kind of used to it. It both gets better and there’s more pressure with each throw.”
On the girls’ side, the Bucs took a dominant win over East Kentwood, 27-3. They swept the 10 possible Baker points with a 139-118 win in the first game and a 143-128 win in the second for a 282-246 overall win.
Mercedes Mitchell led the first regular game with a score of 197, followed by Alexis Thompson at 190 and Alexis Morgan-Sitzer at 111. All three girls took their individual matches for a point each. Kaleigh Batka posted a 138 in a loss in the first regular game, while Bianca Richard rolled a 72 for the same result. Totals of 708 for Grand Haven and 538 padded the Bucs’ point total.
The second game saw four individual wins for Grand Haven. Morgan-Sitzer and Thompson tied for the lead with games of 168, followed by Mitchell at 57 and Batka at 134. Richard posted a 73 to drop the lone point of the round. The effort was enough to give the Bucs the second regular-game, 700-502, and the regular-game total 1,408 to 1,040.
“The girls played pretty well,” said coach Max Golden. “East Kentwood played well this weekend so we knew they may be tough coming in, and our girls came out and performed well.
“We did well al up and down the board. We had some down frames here and there, but our girls are good about shaking those off, putting it behind themselves and getting on to the next shot.”
Both Grand Haven teams will return to action in their new home at Sherman Bowling Center in Muskegon on Wednesday as they host Grandville.