Saturday, February 10th, 2024
Cavs win MAC again
Wildcats beat top three teams to win tournament title
By Tom Haines
Photo by Nick Wenning/The Daily Standard
Coldwater's Carter Bertke warms up before the Midwest Athletic Conference tournament at Miracle Lanes on Friday.
FORT RECOVERY - Coldwater only needed to win through the first two rounds to guarantee another Midwest Athletic Conference boys bowling championship, and it achieved that without losing a game.
In the finals, though, the Cavaliers were finally stopped.
Minster, which came in as the sixth seed, stunned the Cavaliers in a five-game championship round to win the tournament at Miracle Lanes on Friday.
"They struck when it mattered," Minster coach Austin Vanderhorst said after a 223-203 win in the final game. "They made big shots - they came out and shot 223.
"I'm shaking," he said. "I'm sure they are too. I was just trying to stay calm as long as I could."
Coldwater still finished with its third outright MAC title and fourth overall in the four years the conference has sponsored bowling. The only year the Cavaliers split the MAC title was 2021, with Versailles.
Coming in undefeated in the conference gave them seven points going into the tournament, and they beat Parkway by more than 750 pins before claiming three narrow wins over Fort Recovery, the last by five pins.
With that, they were guaranteed at least six points for second place in the tournament. With New Bremen and St. Henry tied for second in the regular season and coming in with five points each, the outright title was mathematically sealed before Coldwater knew it they would face in the finals.
"It sucks to lose in the tournament, but that's still two years in a row we've been MAC champs outright," Cavaliers coach Rick Hartings said. "We like to stay on top, that's the main goal, and try to bowl well enough through the season to win the MAC tournament, or finish as high as possible, and win the MAC outright."
The Wildcats knocked off the top three teams, starting by rolling past the Redskins in the first round, which consisted of two full games and two baker games. In the second round, which went to the best of five baker games, they recovered from an opening loss to the Cardinals and won the next three, closing out the victory with five strikes and a 9-spare to finish the fourth game.
Photo by Nick Wenning/The Daily Standard
Minster's Keetan Sharp closed out the Wildcats' tournament win.
After trading the first two games, Coldwater and Minster came down to the wire in the third. In the first nine frames, each team missed just one spare, and the Cavaliers had five strikes to the Wildcats' four.
Keetan Sharp rolled a spare and a strike in the 10th frame, while Carter Bertke fired two strikes to cut it to 212-205. But his last throw knocked down just six pins, allowing Minster to escape with a 212-211 win and go up two games to one.
"I just told him, 'Nine or more,' " Hartings said. " 'Even if you get eight or seven,' I said, 'keep it close. Just get nine or more. Don't need a strike, just get nine or more.' Then he got a little slow with it, got inside, and we got a six-count to lose to by one. That kind of deflated us a little bit there. …
"I told him, 'There's going to be a lot more, bigger shots the rest of the season,'" he added.
Coldwater bounced back in the fourth game, with Bertke nailing three strikes in the 10th to finish it off. In the fifth, though, the Wildcats were on fire. After they recorded four straight strikes and a spare, Sharp got a spare and a strike in the 10th frame to seal the win.
Rylan Edwards was the fifth bowler to start the day, but Vanderhorst decided to move Sharp there down the stretch.
"He was just rolling the most consistent ball, hitting his mark," Vanderhorst said. "It looked the best going into the pins."
Minster, which went 3-4 in the MAC, leapt all the way up to second place in the final conference standings.
Coldwater, which had 10 upperclassmen on the roster coming into the season, still finished three points clear of the Wildcats in the race for the league title. The Cavaliers were 15-0 in dual matches this season and have plenty of reason for confidence heading into sectionals.
"About halfway through the season, we started trying to clear out who was going to be on the team and who we were going to use for the conference tournament," Hartings said. "We have seven great seniors and three juniors, and those guys were always in the mix…
"These eight we got here are all good kids, and I think we can make some noise in the postseason."
The battle for third place also saw some drama, as New Bremen and Fort Recovery squared off after their semifinal losses with the Cardinals coming in a point up in the standings.
The Indians won the first two games, and though they had a stretch of five straight strikes in the third game, New Bremen was able to hit all its spares to extend the series. In the fourth, the Cardinals built up a sizable lead, but only got eight and then missed the spare in the 10th.
Lucas Acheson stepped up for the Indians and converted a spare, then threw a strike on his final shot to give Fort Recovery a 195-194 win and tie New Bremen for third place in the conference.
St. Henry rallied for a five-game win over Versailles in the consolation bracket to claim fifth place. The Tigers took sixth, and while Parkway beat Marion in the last game, the Flyers came in seventh in the final standings.