Balanced Muskegon 'D'-termined to Reign

January 10, 2017

By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half

Jermayne Golidy emerged as the “go-to” player on Saturday in Muskegon’s first real test of this young basketball season.

But the smooth, 6-foot-4 senior wasn’t even in the starting lineup on the previous night in a lopsided win at cross-town rival Muskegon Mona Shores.

“That’s the kind of team we are – you never know who will be the leading scorer,” said Golidy, who finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots as Muskegon rallied from a halftime deficit to post an impressive 68-55 win over visiting powerhouse Chicago Whitney Young in the final game of the Muskegon Showcase tournament at Redmond-Potter Gymnasium. “I came out a little shaky and nervous, but I knew I had to start playing if we were going to win.”

Defense has always been paramount for Muskegon basketball, but fifth-year head coach Keith Guy knows that in order for the Big Reds to get back and compete for another Class A championship after winning it all in 2015, it will take three other Ds:

Diversity on offense, depth and good decisions.

“We don’t have one guy on this team; we have 10 guys who can put it on the floor and score,” said Guy, whose team is off to a 6-0 start. “We have to use all of our weapons and we have to make good decisions with the ball. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”

It’s a change from recent Muskegon teams which featured a marquee player surrounded by a supporting cast. DeShaun Thrower (2014) and Deyonta Davis (2015) were back-to-back Mr. Basketball Award winners, and last year’s team relied on the senior backcourt duo of Michael Littlejohn and Linwood Lee at crunch time.

This year’s team may not have any five-star college recruits, but the sum of its parts may be better than any other team in the state.

Golidy was one of those supporting cast members the past two seasons who is still trying to adjust his mindset in his senior year.

He started off the season with a game-high 20 points in a victory at Rockford, then was relatively quiet over the next three games, seemingly slipping back into his understudy role.

So his coach benched him.

“We thought we could get more out of him,” explained Guy, who has a 96-13 record at Muskegon, where he is assisted by Maurice Sain, Louis Murray and Josh Wall. “He had a rough week of practice, so he did not start against (Mona) Shores. We put him back out there, and he responded.”

After playing just 13 minutes and scoring eight points in the win over Shores, Golidy came out with renewed purpose against Chicago Whitney Young, an elite magnet public school which boasts such distinguished alumni as Michelle Obama and Jahlil Okafor of the Philadelphia 76ers. Golidy basically never left the floor, playing 30 of 32 minutes.

Muskegon trailed 23-21 at halftime, but it was a 3-pointer early in the third quarter which put the Big Reds ahead to stay. When defenders came out on him, Golidy drove his lean frame to the basket, while also scoring on offensive rebounds and putbacks. Golidy finished 10 of 15 from the floor (with two 3-pointers) and 6 of 8 from the free-throw line.

“I feel like I can play all-around,” said Golidy, who helped the Big Reds to the Class A Regional Finals last year, where they were upset by Hudsonville. “Each game might be different. If we are getting out-rebounded, I’ll go down in the paint. If we need a 3, I’ll take that.”

The problem for Muskegon opponents is that Golidy is just one of four extremely versatile seniors in the Big Reds’ starting lineup who all measure between 6-4 and 6-6 and can play both inside and outside, thereby creating a matchup nightmare.

Markell Jackson (6-6) is the tallest and thinnest of the four, with a massive wingspan that has allowed him to grab a team-high 9.4 rebounds per game. Anthony Bethea III (6-5) is the strongest and most natural post player, and has a nice left-handed shooting stroke. Sam Cornett Jr. (6-5), who joined the Big Reds after formerly playing for his dad Sam at Grandville, supplies speed and ball-handling skills of a guard.

One of the biggest challenges for Guy is keeping those seniors engaged and challenged throughout the long season.

Muskegon, frankly, has not been tested much in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Black since Guy came over from Muskegon Heights in 2012. Therefore, he has made it a point to seek out the best nonconference opponents he can find, often in early-season tournaments.

Already this winter, Muskegon has knocked off East Kentwood in the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame Classic over Christmas break and Chicago Whitney Young at the Muskegon Showcase last weekend. Next up is a tussle with host school Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills in Saturday’s fourth and final game at the annual Floyd Mayweather Basketball Classic.

“We love these big games; that’s where we play our best,” said Golidy. “We’re trying to go 28-0, get a ring and get a state championship. Those are our goals.”

Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Muskegon senior Jermayne Golidy looks to make a move during the Big Reds' 68-45 win over East Kentwood in the Meijer Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame Classic on Dec. 28 at Muskegon Reeths-Puffer High School. (Middle) Muskegon coach Keith Guy and his bench look on during the Big Reds' win over East Kentwood. (Photos by Tim Reilly.)

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

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

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 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.)