The Ishpeming-Negaunee high school bowling teams did everything except win a state championship downstate last weekend.
Of course an MHSAA title was what everybody was shooting for, but at this level, a whole bunch of the Hematites-Miners (Hemaminers? Minatites?) did outstanding in the rarefied air of elite bowlers at Airport Lanes in Jackson.
Both I-N boys and girls teams qualified for the Division 3 championships out of regional play the previous weekend, as did three bowlers for the singles finals. And Westwood got a bowler into the Division 4 girls singles finals, too.
The top finish was posted by the I-N boys, who lost in the championship match by a mere 30 pins to Livonia Clarenceville. I get the feeling that if the Detroit-area school had been forced to come up to the Upper Peninsula for the finals, that would've been worth at least a 30-pin swing in the final analysis.
Nevertheless, I-N coach Steve Windahl reported that Livonia had a big final rush that overcame his team's lead at the start of the 10th frame, throwing a pair of three-strike turkeys, a double, another strike that created a double and a spare in the last frame.
Each of three matches I-N participated in started with two Baker-style games, where bowlers alternate frames to come up with a single-game score, and finished with a regular game, where each athlete bowls his own game.
The Yoopers trailed just 332-326 after Baker, then Clarenceville prevailed 903-879 in the five-boy game. Kirk Guckenberg, the tough-luck singles bowler at the U.P. finals and MHSAA regionals, led his team with 199, while Tyler Windahl shot 197, Austin Wilkins 187, Andrew Maki 150 and Matt Kilberg 146.
Back at the start, Ishpeming blew the other 17 teams away by a full hundred pins during qualifying, shooting 3,422 with second place at 3,322. In that round, teams bowled eight Baker games and two regular.
I-N averaged 180.3 in Baker, including a 253 opener when only one other team broke 200 to start play. Then I-N added a modest 912 regular game before Wilkins led his team into "hyperspace" by bombing a 290 game to lead his team to 1,068 - the only team to break into quadruple digits in either regular game.
I-N then won two matches to get to the finals, edging No. 8 qualifier Hudsonville Unity Christian, 1,209-1,185 with 148-214 in Baker and an 847 regular game, and No. 4 Pinconning, 1,197-1,149 with 160-185-852.
Unfortunately, no individual scores - other than Wilkins' 290 - were available from the rounds before the finals.
The Hematite-Miner girls did nearly as well, reaching the semifinals before bowing out to Grand Rapids South Christian, 1,232-998 with a 153-154-691 line as their spare game deserted them, according to girls coach Diana Windahl.
Unlike the boys, I-N's girls just snuck into match play in eighth place, compiling just 12 more pins than the first team out, ninth-place Cheboygan. I-N shot 2,894, including a 156.1 average in Baker and regular games of 852-793, and was less than 150 pins behind first-place Croswell-Lexington.
And it was No. 1 C-L that Ishpeming just barely took out in its first match, 1,121-1,114 on a line of 170-168-783.
In singles, all three I-N participants - Kilberg, Tyler Windahl and Kaytlynne Carlson - beat the odds by finishing in the top 16 of the 60-bowler fields to reach match play.
And two of them - Windahl and Carlson - were knocked out in the quarterfinals by the eventual champion.
Carlson was 10th in girls qualifying with 1,099, a 183.2 average including three games in the 190s. She finished 45 pins ahead of the first bowler out in 17th place and 76 pins out of the top spot.
She beat No. 7 Gabby LaVigne of Cheboygan, 407-299, on games of 202 and 205 before falling to No. 15 Laurynn Ball of Armada, 433-392 (218-174).
Ball's scores fell after that, but she hung on for a 338-322 win in the championship match.
Kilberg and Windahl just snuck into boys match play, Kilberg tied for 14th with 1,136 and Windahl in the 16th and final spot with 1,135, just 10 pins ahead of the first bowler to miss the cut in 17th. The two I-N bowlers averaged 189 that round and each broke 200 twice.
Kilberg opened match play with a 354-285 (186-168) win over co-No. 1 Chris Morgan of Marshall while Windahl took on the other co-No. 1, Troy Frathau of Croswell-Lexington, and beat him 371-338 (168-203).
Both were knocked out in close matches in the next round, Kilberg by No. 7 Sam Brandt of Fremont, 366-360 (183-177), and Windahl by No. 9 Adam LaRoe of Napoleon, 381-380 (177-203). LaRoe's scores fell off after that, but he held on for a 373-368 win in the title match.
For Westwood, junior Amanda Prophet was 34th in qualifying with 1,006, a 167.7 average and 66 pins out of a qualifying spot as she had two games in the 180s.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.