Breslin Bound: 2021-22 Boys Regional Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 14, 2022

The magic number is down to "3" to earn a trip to East Lansing as Michigan's remaining 128 high school boys basketball teams pull closer to reaching the season's final weekend at Michigan State's Breslin Center.  

MI Student AidRematches won by the team that lost the first time (or two) headlined our District Finals from Friday, and a number of rematches are possible again this week with several highlighted below. Check out “Tracking the Tournament” on for every matchup from all brackets.

“Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid.

Week in Review

The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results: 

1. Detroit Cass Tech 58, Detroit Martin Luther King 54 (OT) The Technicians (19-3) avenged a 56-51 loss to King (19-3) from Jan. 21 that ended up deciding the Detroit Public School League Blue title.

2. Grand Rapids Catholic Central 68, Hudsonville Unity Christian 48 The reigning Division 2 champion Cougars (21-1) handed Unity Christian (21-1) its only loss of the season.

3. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 63, Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 40 The Eaglets (18-4) had lost to Brother Rice (15-7) by two and 12 during the regular season.

4. Michigan Center 63, Napoleon 47 The Cardinals (17-6) had finished third in the Cascades Conference but defeated champion Vandercook Lake and then runner-up Napoleon (19-3) to claim a Division 3 District title.

5. Grandville Calvin Christian 61, Grand Rapids Covenant Christian 55 The Squires (19-3) avenged a 68-61 overtime loss to the rival Chargers (17-4) from Dec. 17 – Calvin’s last defeat this season.

Regionals at a Glance

These could be among our most competitive brackets. Host sites are in bold:


Detroit Renaissance
Detroit U-D Jesuit (16-5) vs. Hamtramck (19-3), North Farmington (18-3) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (18-4)

To say this Regional is loaded is an understatement. Jesuit was No. 1 in final Division 1 MPR, St. Mary’s was No. 2, Hamtramck No. 9 and North Farmington No. 13. Jesuit won its first two meetings with St. Mary’s this season, but the Eaglets won the most recent 65-43 in the Detroit Catholic League Bishop Tournament. Hamtramck hasn’t lost since Jan. 15, with a pair of wins over River Rouge (17-4) highlighting its run. North Farmington’s losses came to opponents that all won 15 or more games, and the Raiders avenged the most recent by defeating Oak Park 45-36 in a regular-season finale. For common opponent purposes, Oak Park fell to Jesuit in their District Final by just a point.

Grand Haven
Muskegon (20-2) vs. Grand Rapids Northview (22-1), Holland West Ottawa (11-12) vs. Wyoming (15-7)

Tonight’s Regional Semifinals feature a titanic matchup between Ottawa-Kent Conference champions as Green title winner Muskegon takes on White title winner Northview. The Wildcats’ only loss was in their second meeting against Grand Rapids Christian (18-4), while Muskegon has lost only to Kalamazoo Central (14-7) and Ferndale (18-3) – and all three of those opponents also have gone on to win District titles. The Big Reds were ranked No. 10 in final Division 1 MPR. West Ottawa lost five straight to end the regular season before reversing course with a District title run, and Wyoming finished second to Muskegon in the Green and also faced Northview this season.

River Rouge
Lincoln Park (16-6) vs. Brownstown Woodhaven (18-4), Dearborn (17-5) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (19-3)

Cass Tech’s District Final win continued a run of 10 victories over its last 11 games, and the Technicians last week actually avenged two of their regular-season losses by also defeating Detroit Western in a District Semifinal. They next face a District full of similarly hungry programs looking to take a big step. Woodhaven won the Downriver League and Lincoln Park was second despite Lincoln Park winning both of their regular-season meetings. Lincoln Park was 3-12 just a season ago, and Woodhaven is riding high with eight wins over its last nine games and all by double digits. Dearborn has taken a couple of nice steps the last few seasons, and three of its losses were to Kensington Lakes Activities Association East champ Belleville (16-6) as the Pioneers finished second this winter.


Flint Powers Catholic
Richmond (19-3) vs. Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (15-7), Croswell-Lexington (22-0) vs. Goodrich (18-4)

Crowell-Lexington is a combined 61-3 over the last three seasons, with COVID-19 ending its 2020 run and an overtime Quarterfinal loss finishing 2021. The Pioneers were first again in the Blue Water Area Conference and Richmond second, but Croswell-Lexington won the second meeting Feb. 22 only 56-54. To set up a third, the Pioneers will have to get by another league champion in the Flint Metro League Stars’ Goodrich, which avenged a late loss to Lake Fenton by defeating the Blue Devils by 11 in their District Final. Richmond takes on Notre Dame Prep, which also had a bit of a rough end to the regular season – facing some of the state’s top teams with a loss to Goodrich during that stretch – but the Fighting Irish came back to edge Warren Michigan Collegiate (15-5) by a point in their District Final.

Three Rivers
Benton Harbor (20-2) vs. Holland Christian (15-7), Edwardsburg (15-7) vs. Parchment (20-1)

On opposite sides of this bracket sit No. 5 Parchment and No. 8 Benton Harbor, Parchment seeking its first Regional title since 2000 and Benton Harbor its first since 2018 when it went on to win the Class B championship. Parchment’s only defeat was to Schoolcraft (20-2), while Benton Harbor lost only to Muskegon (see above) and Detroit Edison (16-6) – all three of those opponents are still playing this week. Parchment first must get past Edwardsburg, also a league champion. Benton Harbor opens with Holland Christian, which tied for second in a power-packed O-K Blue and suffered all of its losses to opponents that won 16 or more games this winter.

Marshall (20-2) vs. Lansing Catholic (13-10), Williamston (22-0) vs. Onsted (22-0)

Unbeatens Onsted and Williamston make for one of tonight’s premier matchups, in any division, with Williamston playing only one single-digit game this season and Onsted only three. Williamston last won a Regional title in 2018, and Onsted is seeking its first since 1983. On the other side, Marshall shared the title in an Interstate 8 Athletic Conference that produced four teams that won at least 14 games. Lansing Catholic defeated Division 1 Holt on the way into the playoffs and then the two teams that finished ahead of the Cougars in the Capital Area Activities Conference White – champion Ionia and runner-up Lansing Sexton – on the way to the District title.


Lawton (15-7) vs. Schoolcraft (20-2), Watervliet (18-3) vs. Bronson (13-9)

Schoolcraft and Watervliet both shared Southwestern Athletic Conference divisional titles but haven’t seen each other this season, although they have three mutual opponents. Schoolcraft hasn’t lost since Dec. 28, including handing Parchment (see above) its only defeat. The Eagles open with Lawton, which finished third in Watervliet’s SAC Lakeshore division. Watervliet faces Bronson, which finished fifth in a competitive Big 8 Conference and is riding an eight-game winning streak.

Flint Beecher
Hemlock (15-7) vs. Flint Beecher (19-2), Bad Axe (20-2) vs. Marlette (12-11)

Reigning Division 3 champion Beecher has been a favorite to repeat all season, ranked No. 2 in final Division 3 MPR and with its only losses to Division 1 Grand Blanc (17-5) and Detroit Martin Luther King (19-3). The Bucs are coming off a 31-point win over Reese (18-3) in their District Final. Hemlock has seven losses, but six of them were by a combined 17 points – or just under three per defeat – and they avenged one with an 18-point win over Ithaca in last week’s District Final. On the other side, Bad Axe will see Marlette for the second time in two weeks after winning the first meeting by 18. The Hatchets’ only losses were to Reese.

Sault Ste. Marie
Ishpeming Westwood (17-4) vs. Menominee (19-3), Harbor Springs (10-11) vs. Benzie Central (19-3)

Menominee entered the postseason as the No. 1 team in overall Division 3 MPR with its losses to teams that have at least 18 wins and are still alive in their respective divisions. The Maroons actually defeated Escanaba (18-4) twice to finish first in the Great Northern Conference before losing their third meeting, and they are seeking their first Regional title since 2008. Westwood also is a league champion, from the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference East, and is seeking its first Regional title since 2016. Benzie, winner of the Northwest Conference, is seeking its first Regional title since 1997 after emerging from one of the strongest Division 3 Districts in the state, with Harbor Springs one of the surprise District champs after upsets of St. Ignace (15-6) and East Jordan (13-9) last week.


Lake Leelanau St. Mary (18-4) vs. Ellsworth (19-3), Frankfort (11-11) vs. McBain Northern Michigan Christian (22-0)

Ellsworth is seeking its first Regional title since 2009, NMC its first since 2003 and St. Mary its first since 1950. Frankfort has more recent history playing in the late stages of this tournament, finishing Division 4 runner-up in 2019. The Panthers represent the strong Northwest Conference won by Benzie Central (see above), but NMC did win their Feb. 26 meeting 61-49 and claimed the title in a similarly Division 3-heavy Highland Conference. Ellsworth won the Northern Lakes Conference, with its two most recent losses to Division 3 teams. St. Mary as an independent has played a variety of schools all over the state and has wins over Ellsworth (71-63) and Frankfort (64-38), with three of its four losses to Division 3 schools and the fourth to Rudyard (21-1).

Ewen-Trout Creek (19-3) vs. Lake Linden-Hubbell (13-8), Powers North Central (18-4) vs. Munising (19-2)

Ewen-Trout Creek finished second in overall Division 4 MPR, with North Central No. 4 and Munising No. 12. All three are league champions. Ewen-Trout Creek owns a big win over Lake Linden-Hubbell from a month ago and also a one-pointer over Menominee (see above) from March 1, but the Lakes are riding a six-game winning streak. North Central and Munising meet again after the Jets won their Feb. 23 game 59-48 and Munising won the rematch March 3 64-43. North Central’s only other losses were to Menominee, with Munising’s other defeat to Rudyard.

Clarkston Everest Collegiate (17-5) vs. Marine City Cardinal Mooney (14-8), Genesee Christian (18-4) vs. Ubly (17-4)

All four finished among the top 24 in Division 4 MPR – with Genesee Christian No. 7, Ubly No. 11 and Everest No. 13. Genesee Christian has three losses from either Beecher or Flint Hamady, which also advanced to this week in Division 2, and the Soldiers defeated Everest 55-50 on Jan. 29. Ubly won the Greater Thumb Conference East with all four of its losses to Division 3 teams that won 14 or more games, and the Bearcats earned a 69-44 win over another league champ Kinde North Huron to finish last week’s District run. This will be the third meeting between Everest and Cardinal Mooney, with the Mountaineers winning the first two by two and then three in overtime, respectively. Everest also has a two-point win over annual contender Southfield Christian.

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PHOTO Jalen Kampen (22) gets his hand on a loose ball during Parchment's 58-55 win over Otsego to clinch a Division 2 District title Friday. (Photo by Gary Shook.)

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.)