Breslin Bound: 2021-22 Boys Quarterfinal Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 22, 2022

We have reached the final week of winter on the MHSAA calendar, and the final game before one more Breslin-bound trip closes our season.

MI Student AidBelow is a look at all 16 Boys Basketball Quarterfinals that will be played across the state this evening. Times are included where two are at the same site – the rest tip-off at 7 p.m. EST. Click here for the full schedule.

“Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid.


Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (20-4) vs. Warren De La Salle Collegiate (17-7) at University of Detroit Mercy, 5:30 p.m.

No opponents playing Tuesday are more familiar with each other, as the Eaglets won these Detroit Catholic League Central rivals’ first two meetings by two in double overtime and then 13. St. Mary’s has a number of scorers including senior JaVaughn Hannah (16.5 ppg), freshman Trey McKenney (15.8) and senior Kareem Rozier (15.8), with Rozier a Mr. Basketball finalist. De La Salle can rely on a number of contributors as well with six players averaging between 8-11 points per game, led by senior Tamario Adley at 11.3 ppg. Six of its seven losses this season were in league play, and 12 of its 13 nonleague wins were by double digits.

Grand Rapids Northview (24-1) vs. Kalamazoo Central (16-7) at Middleville Thornapple Kellogg

Senior Kyler VanderJagt paces a Northview team set to play in its first Quarterfinal since 2006 and with its only loss this season to Grand Rapids Christian. The Wildcats’ tournament run has included impressive wins over Rockford and Muskegon. Kalamazoo Central started this season 2-4 but has gone 14-3 since with those three losses by a combined four points. Seniors Thomas Dillard IV and Scott Hughes and junior Hutch Ward all average between 14-16 points per game.

Grand Blanc (19-5) vs. Detroit Catholic Central (16-8) at Saginaw Heritage

The reigning Division 1 champion Bobcats have won 17 of their last 18 games, with junior RJ Taylor (16.8 ppg, 51 3-pointers) among standouts who’ve put Grand Blanc in position to return to Breslin. Similar to De La Salle, seven of DCC’s eight losses came to Catholic League Central opponents, which no doubt helped the Shamrocks further prep for this tournament run. Sophomore T.J. Nadeau (13.4) leads four DCC players averaging double-digit scoring, and he’s made 39 percent of his 3-point attempts for 43 total.

Belleville (18-6) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (21-3) at University of Detroit Mercy, 7:30 p.m.

The Technicians emerged from one of the strongest Districts in the state and added a pair of 20-point Regional wins to reach the Quarterfinals for the first time since 1998. Freshman Darius Acuff has made his presence immediately felt with team bests of 16.2 points and 6.1 assists per game. Four Belleville starters average at least 10 points apiece, with senior Da’Jon Johnson leading the way at 12.1 ppg. The Tigers’ first five losses were by a combined 12 points and included one double and one triple-overtime defeat before Belleville went on to win eight of its last nine.


Grand Rapids Catholic Central (23-1) vs. Benton Harbor (22-2) at Calvin University

The reigning Division 2 champion Cougars have lost only once this season, early to 2021 Division 3 champ Flint Beecher, and handed Hudsonville Unity Christian its only loss of the season on the way to this Quarterfinal rematch with the Tigers. GRCC won last year’s Quarterfinal 83-72. Four standouts average at least 11 points per game, with junior Kaden Brown tops at 21 and with 65 3-pointers. The Tigers have won 10 straight since their most recent defeat, to Division 3 quarterfinalist Detroit Edison, with the other loss to Division 1 Muskegon. Junior Grant Gondrezick II scores 21 points per game to lead four averaging at least 11 ppg.

Ferndale (20-3) vs. Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (17-7) at St. Clair Country Community College

Ferndale is seeking to return to the Semifinals for the second-straight season and prepped again facing a number of the state’s best teams. All three of the Eagles’ losses came to teams playing in Division 1 Quarterfinals – De La Salle, St. Mary’s and Grand Blanc – and the De La Salle and Grand Blanc defeats were in double and single overtime, respectively. Notre Dame Prep is coming off its second Regional title and first since 1998. Seniors Jack Olis and Jonathan Risi and sophomore Wade Robinson all average between 15-16 ppg and have made at least 44 3-pointers apiece.

Williamston (24-0) vs. Detroit Edison (19-5) at Chelsea

Williamston has played one single-digit game all season as it returns to the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2018 seeking its first Semifinal berth since 2016. The Hornets’ most notable postseason victory was a 57-38 Regional Semifinal win over previously-undefeated Onsted. Edison started this season 0-4 but its only loss since was in its league tournament semifinal against Romulus Summit Academy North – and Edison avenged that defeat with a 42-41 Regional Final win. Junior guard Bryce Eaton sets the scoring pace at 22.5 points per game.

Cadillac (19-5) vs. Freeland (24-0) at Central Montcalm

Cadillac has been on a roll with wins over Benzie Central (20-4) in the regular season finale and Standish-Sterling (21-2) and Escanaba (19-5) in last week’s Regional. But next up is Freeland, which has played three single-digit games all season on the way to reaching the final week undefeated. Senior Cole Jenema leads Cadillac with 19.8 ppg, while Freeland is paced by senior Josh Elliott (18.5) leading three who average 13.5 or more points per contest.


Menominee (21-3) vs. Grayling (15-9) at Sault Ste. Marie

The Maroons entered the postseason the No. 1 overall seed in Division 3 and reached the final week for the first time since 2008 with an overtime win in the Regional Final over Benzie Central. Senior Aidan Bellisle sets the pace at 15.4 points and 4.8 assists per game. Grayling will be playing in its first Quarterfinal since 1957 in part thanks to handing Mesick (21-1) its only loss this season in a District Final. Senior Dylan Cragg leads a balanced attack at 13.1 ppg.

Bath (17-6) vs. Ecorse (8-12) at Jackson Lumen Christi

A series of forfeits over the first two months of the season has left Ecorse with this record but didn’t diminish its status as a likely Division 3 contender. The Raiders have proved it handing Riverview Gabriel Richard (19-1) its only loss in a District Semifinal and edging Erie Mason (18-6) last week. Senior Ethan Swenson has led Bath back to the Quarterfinals for the first time since its Class C championship season of 2007.

Pewamo-Westphalia (20-4) vs. Schoolcraft (22-2) at Kalamazoo Loy Norrix

P-W has won 18 of its last 19 games, with the lone defeat during that time to Division 2 undefeated quarterfinalist Freeland. Junior Jamison Eklund scores 17 points as a 6-foot-5 post presence with perimeter game. One of the Pirates’ early losses came against Schoolcraft, 61-32 at Cornerstone University on Dec. 30. That victory started a 20-game winning streak for the Eagles, who get a double-double from 6-7 senior Tyler DeGroote (16.3 ppg, 10.2 rpg).

New Haven (17-7) vs. Flint Beecher (21-2) at Burton Bendle

Beecher is seeking a repeat this week with its only losses this season to Division 1 Detroit Martin Luther King (19-3) and Grand Blanc. Two starters and the top sub are back from last season’s championship team. New Haven’s five straight Quarterfinal appearances from 2015-19 were all in Class B/Division 2, and the Rockets played a schedule loaded with larger opponents this winter. Juniors Trevon Jeffery (11.6) and Dezmond Gilleylen (11.2) lead a lineup with five players averaging at least seven points per game.


Ewen-Trout Creek (21-3) vs. Rudyard (23-1) at Munising

Rudyard, a semifinalist last season, has lost only to St. Ignace by a point in overtime this winter and got past Onaway (22-2) in the Regional Final. Senior 6-8 center Tate Besteman (16.5 ppg, 10 rpg) teams with senior guard EJ Suggitt (15.9 ppg, 58 3-pointers) for a powerful inside-out punch. Ewen-Trout Creek advanced with a win over Powers North Central (19-5) to reach the final week for the first time since 2008. Senior Jaden Borseth (18.8 ppg) leads a strong perimeter attack.

Lake Leelanau St. Mary (20-4) vs. Fulton (14-11) at Lake City

St. Mary is making its first Quarterfinal trip since 1950, and second in program history. The Eagles’ three losses were to Rudyard and three Division 3 teams, and juniors Dylan Barnowski (21.2) and Shawn Bramer (20.4) are significant scoring threats. Fulton joins Bath and P-W from the Central Michigan Athletic Conference and has won seven straight. Senior Joe Iung leads at 16.6 ppg.

Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (18-6) vs. Adrian Lenawee Christian (13-12) at Portage Northern

Tri-unity is the reigning Division 4 runner-up, having fallen to Detroit Douglass by six in last year’s Final. The Defenders have won 14 of their last 16 led by Brady Titus (29.8 ppg). Lenawee Christian played a tough schedule as well, and after finishing the regular season on a 2-7 stretch has pulled together three straight six-point wins including over Hillsdale Academy (18-5) and Bellevue (20-4). Senior Tyler VanEtten scores 20.5 points per game and has made 64 3-pointers.

Southfield Christian (20-4) vs. Genesee Christian (20-4) at West Bloomfield

The Eagles are returning to the Quarterfinals for the fifth season in a row (not counting COVID-abbreviated 2020). Sophomore Uchenna Amene leads this year’s contender at 22.3 points per game with 52 3-pointers. Genesee Christian is back at the Quarterfinals after most recently falling to Southfield Christian in this round in 2019. The Soldiers have won 10 straight over the last six weeks with all of their losses this season to Division 2 or 3 schools, including two to Beecher.

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PHOTOS (Top) Ewen-Trout Creek's Kelsey Jilek (24) blocks a shot by Powers North Central's Jesse Sampson (22) during last week’s Regional Final. (Middle) Edison's Jada Shepard (24) and Kyle Millender (2) wall off the basket this season against Davison. (Photos by Cara Kamps and Terry Lyons, respectively.)

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.)