2,241 Reasons to Watch Chris Hass

February 14, 2012

Chris Hass began his freshman basketball season with his sights set on breaking an MHSAA career record.

But if you’ve heard at all of the Pellston High standout, it’s probably not the record you’d think.

Hass is one of just 34 players in MHSAA history to score at least 2,000 points. Only nine players have scored more than his 2,241 points heading into Wednesday’s game against Bellaire.

That record he wanted to break? Career assists, of course. And Hass has a bunch of those too. But the 6-foot-5 senior clearly is known for scoring in bunches few in MHSAA history have equaled.

“For me, it wasn’t something where it was my goal. I definitely feel honored to play on a team that’s willing to give me an opportunity to do that,” Hass said. “I guess it’s a big deal in northern Michigan, getting our name out there. Pellston is a small school, and to hit 2,000 points, it’s starting to get Pellston on the map, which is what the community deserves.”

Hass earned one of this week’s MHSAA High 5s not just for the ridiculous numbers he’s put up this season and over the last four, but for how he’s led the Class D Hornets into at least a glimmer of the state spotlight.

Pellston is 14-1 and can avenge its lone loss tonight against Bellaire, which beat the Hornets 75-58 on Jan. 17. Bellaire is ranked No. 1 and Pellston No. 3 in this week’s Associated Press Class D state poll.

Hass has a history with Bellaire – he scored 26 points in the fourth quarter alone before fouling out in a loss last season to Eagles. That’s the fourth-most points scored in a quarter in MHSAA history – and just one of the many listings Hass has or will have in the record book after his high school career ends sometime next month.

This season, he’s averaging 30.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, six assists, 4.5 steals and 2.5 blocked shots per game. He’s always been a strong ball-handler and continues to man the point despite an ability to play any position. He’s making 55 percent of his shots from the floor – including an incredible 52-percent success clip from 3-point range (he’s made 40 from beyond the arc).

“On nights when we really don’t need him to (score), he almost disappears into the background a little bit to get his teammates involved,” Cliff Hass said. “It’s really about the team, chemistry. He’s always one of the leaders trying to get chemistry (right). Does he love to have that 57-point night? That’s great, but he’s all about winning.”

So much so that Chris Hass almost committing to play next for Bethel College (Ind.), which has won seven NAIA national championships under its current coach, before settling on Bucknell after falling in love with the program and campus during a visit. There, Hass will join 2011 Petoskey graduate Cory Starkey on a team that made the NCAA Tournament last season.

"First and foremost, Chris is just a terrific scorer," said Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen in his program’s early-signing day press release. "He is an excellent shooter with great range, but he is also athletic and `bouncy' and can get to the rim. We expect that Chris will be able to give us a real explosive offensive presence from the perimeter."

Hass’ point total is exactly 600 short of the MHSAA record set by Mio’s Jay Smith from 1976-79. It’s unlikely Hass will break that record – he’d have to average 50 points a game through the MHSAA Final just to tie it – but being in the conversation is something special in itself.

Filling it up is nothing new in the Hass family. Older sister Stephanie Hass held the MHSAA girls scoring record with 2,732 points for a decade until Central Lake’s Jasmine Hines broke it last season. Hass, who played high school at Harbor Springs Harbor Light Christian – and then at Saginaw Valley State University – finished with a career scoring average of 31.4 points per game, tops in the record book.

And she never took it easy on her little brother.

Chris Hass remembered once, when he was 8 or so, getting so angry during a game of one-on-one that he started throwing rocks at his sister. But he also watched and emulated how she worked to improve her game. And around 12 years old, he beat her one-on-one for the first time.

“I do see similarities in both, offensively; ball-handling was probably their number one attribute. It’s the first thing I really noticed,” said Cliff Hass, their father and also Pellston’s boys varsity coach. “(And) they both developed that mentality of being able to score at any time.

“I tell all the players I coach, if you touch the ball 94 feet away (from the basket), your first goal is to score from 94 feet away. Being in the mentality of looking to score, you put pressure on the defense, and they have to stop you. And they might need a second person to try to stop you. “

Chris echoes his dad’s philosophy. But he wanted to make sure people saw him as more than a scorer. At Harbor Light in sixth and seventh grade, he’d been mostly a distributor passing to Collin Hewitt, who now plays at Spring Arbor. But Hass switched to his dad’s school for ninth grade, and began switching roles as well.

He still tries to get as many assists as he can. But although Pellston has other scorers (senior Andy Hamlin tallied his 1,000th career point this season), Hass knows for the Hornets to continue this run – and get a chance to show what they can do against competition from further down state – he needs to keep putting up the points. 

“When you say you’re from the Petoskey area, people have no idea where that is,” Hass said. “Knowing we finally maybe might get some respect, I’m definitely excited about it.”

Championship Experience from Coach's Point of View Unimaginable, Unforgettable

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com

April 4, 2024

WYOMING – As the final buzzer sounded, it was all I could’ve imagined – and more.

West Michigan

In the weeks leading up to March 16 and the Division 4 championship game, I experienced every emotion possible as I envisioned what it would feel like to be an assistant coach on the bench at Michigan State’s Breslin Center as the Wyoming Tri-unity Christian boys basketball team achieved its ultimate goal.

In my first year as the junior varsity coach at Tri-unity, I had been on the varsity bench for a majority of the season, assisting legendary coach Mark Keeler and fellow assistants Brent Voorhees, Bob Przybysz and Mike Kaman.

I was there encouraging, motivating and supporting the varsity team. It was a role I embraced, and had become accustomed to over my almost 30 years coaching high school basketball.

I started coaching in 1995 as Jim Ringold gave me my first opportunity as the freshmen girls coach at Wyoming Kelloggsville High School. I would then coach Kelloggsville’s freshmen boys team for eight seasons, while also coaching the freshmen girls at Grandville High School. I would also coach the junior varsity teams at both schools.

I love coaching. I have a passion for it. I’ve always enjoyed getting the most out of my players while creating a bond between player and coach.

When girls basketball season moved from fall to winter joining the boys in 2007-08, I stayed at Grandville. I spent 21 seasons there before stepping down.

I still wanted to coach, and I heard that the Tri-unity junior varsity position was available. I had always respected and liked Keeler and was excited for the prospect of joining a perennial powerhouse.

I didn’t really know about Tri-unity growing up in the Wyoming Park school district. But as a young kid, I would rush home and eagerly await the afternoon delivery of the Grand Rapids Press. I would quickly find the sports page and read it from front to back, hoping one day to see my byline.

I began writing for the Press’ sports department in 1997. It was my dream job. And that’s also when I first started covering Tri-unity boys basketball.

I remember watching eventual NBA all-star Chris Kaman, along with Bryan Foltice and others play for this little Christian school and have unbridled success under Keeler.

MHSAA Tournament runs became the norm for the Defenders. They won their first Finals title in 1996, and they would claim four more over the next 26 years. They also had six runner-up finishes.

Tri-unity’s assistant coaches, including Holzwarth (second from right), monitor the action.I was sitting on media row writing for MHSAA.com in 2022 when Brady Titus led Tri-unity to its fifth state championship.

I never thought that two years later I would be on the coaching staff as the Defenders pursued another one. But there I was.

I knew this year’s team had the potential to be special.

Tri-unity had returned four of its five starters from a year ago, after suffering a heart-breaking two-point loss to Munising in the Division 4 Final.

Eight seniors were on the roster. The team had a mix of talented guard play, senior leadership, size and depth. We had shooters and we played great defense, a trademark of Keeler’s teams.

This was the year, and that heaped lofty expectations on Keeler and the team. It was basically “state championship or bust.” Anything less would be considered a disappointment.

Keeler wanted it badly, and I knew the players did as well. I think they felt the pressure at times of living up to the expectations that had been set.

We had several lopsided wins, but also had a few tough losses to Division 2 and Division 3 teams – Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, Wyoming Lee, Grandville Covenant Christian and Schoolcraft – all talented teams that I think made us better despite falling short.

As the postseason started, there was anxiety and excitement.

We were one of the favorites, but it wouldn’t be easy. We would have to earn each of the seven victories needed to win it all.

First came a District title, but then we had to play a quality Fowler team in its home gym in the Regional Semifinal. This was a game we knew would be a challenge – and it was.

We led by only one at halftime after a 7-0 run to end the second quarter. The score was tied 33-33 in the fourth quarter before senior Lincoln Eerdmans made a key 3-pointer to spark our victory.

As we went through the handshake line, several Fowler players said, “Good luck in the Finals.”

Our defense played extremely well in the Regional Final and state Quarterfinal to secure our team another trip to the Breslin.

St. Ignace was our opponent in the Semifinal, and we had to face a senior guard who could do it all – Jonny Ingalls. He lived up to the hype. He was good, and we didn’t have any answer for him in the first half. We trailed by one, only to fall behind by seven late in the third quarter.

Was this the end? Were we going to fall one game short of our goal?

Holzwarth and the coaching staff greet Keaton Blanker (4) as he comes off the floor. We were down by five points in the fourth quarter, but junior guard Keaton Blanker, and others, rose to the occasion. We rallied to win a tight one, and now we were one win away from a Division 4 title.

The night before the championship game, we stayed at a hotel in East Lansing as we had the first game of the day at 10 a.m. We had a team dinner, and the players seemed relaxed and eager to close out the season the way they had intended.

There was one thing that worried me. We were playing Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart. A team we had played in the second game of the season and defeated by 30 points.

Would we be overconfident? I had no idea. They were a different team now, but so were we. Anything could happen.

Keeler gave a spirited and emotional pregame speech. In last year’s loss to Munising, he felt like the team played not to lose, and this season his big thing was “I want to win.” He said it to every starter that Saturday morning during the final moments in the locker room before tipoff, asking all five individually to say it back – which they did, the first one quietly but followed by teammates replying louder and louder as everyone got fired up and “I want to win” rang through the locker room. I think it inspired all of us.

After a competitive first quarter, we started to find our rhythm and expanded the lead. We were ahead by double-digits at the half, and a state title was within our grasp. Senior Wesley Kaman buried a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the third quarter to give us a 20-point cushion. It was at that point I knew we were going to win.

All five starters reached double-figure scoring, led by Jordan VanKlompenberg with 19 points and Owen Rosendall with 14. That balance was intentional and a successful sign for our team all season.

The exhilaration of winning was intoxicating. I loved watching the boys celebrate something they had worked so hard to accomplish. I will never forget their faces. I looked to my right from my seat on the bench and watched them running onto the court, just wearing their joy. They were just elated.

I was so happy for Keeler, a devout Christian who is respected by so many people in high school basketball circles. I learned so much from him this season. The way he approaches each game, his competitiveness. He instills his strong faith in his players and understands that the game of basketball is a bridge to a higher purpose.

Keeler is the fourth-winningest coach in state boys basketball history with a record of 694-216, and will be the winningest active coach next winter as all-time leader Roy Johnston retired from Beaverton at the end of this season.

The tournament run was one of the best coaching experiences I have had, and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of a state championship season.

Dean HolzwarthDean Holzwarth has covered primarily high school sports for Grand Rapids-based WOOD-TV for five years after serving at the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years along with shorter stints at the Ionia Sentinel and WZZM. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties. 

PHOTOS (Top) The Wyoming Tri-unity Christian bench, including the author (far right) and head coach Mark Keeler (middle), celebrate a 3-pointer late in the Defenders’ Division 4 championship win over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart. (Middle) Tri-unity’s assistant coaches, including Holzwarth (second from right), monitor the action. (Below) Holzwarth and the coaching staff greet Keaton Blanker (4) as he comes off the floor. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)