Breslin Bound: 2021-22 Boys Report Week 1

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

December 13, 2021

Showcase matchups began quenching fans’ thirst for the new season last week, with more on the way, and league play already is ramping up as we embark on a four-month journey – much different than last season’s two-month sprint.

MI Student Aid

Boys basketball season began the way it’s meant to begin, and no one will be taking that for granted.

Every Monday with “Breslin Bound” we’ll take glances at five scores that especially jumped out from the previous week, provide snapshots of two teams in each division to watch as the winter progresses, and then give a glimpse of five intriguing matchups on the schedule during the week to come.

“Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at Send corrections or missing scores to [email protected].

Week in Review

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

1. Detroit U-D Jesuit 51, Detroit Martin Luther King 42 These two are both expected to be in the Division 1 championship mix again, as usual, making this a game that might be recalled when March rolls around.  

2. Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 86, Grand Blanc 68 The Warriors opened with an impressive win over the reigning Division 1 champion, putting up what would’ve been a season-high points total last winter. 

3. Freeland 80, Bridgeport 51 Although these Tri-Valley Conference foes did split last season, Bridgeport is coming off a run to the Division 2 Semifinals. 

4. Grand Rapids Catholic Central 50, Grand Rapids Christian 45 The reigning Division 2 champion didn’t lose a game last season but got an immediate test from the Eagles in this opener. 

5. Harrison 40, Beaverton 38 Harrison finished seventh and Beaverton was undefeated in winning the Jack Pine Conference last season; this avenged 29 and 39-point losses by the Hornets.

Watch List

With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks: 

Division 1

Bay City Central (2-0) The Wolves are making an early push for one of the most interesting potential turnarounds this winter. The finished 2-12 last season, and they’ve already equaled that success. And it came with plenty of excitement – Central opened with a 63-61 win over Midland Dow and followed with another close finish, 51-49 over Tawas. 

Okemos (2-0) After a rare down season – finishing 3-7 with a pair of overtime losses and two more defeats by five or fewer points – Okemos is off to a fast start reestablishing itself as a contender in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue. The first step was a 63-51 opening-night win over a Howell team coming off a District title, and the next was a 53-37 victory over DeWitt.

Division 2

Onsted (3-0) The Wildcats are coming off two straight 14-win seasons, and they couldn’t have gotten off to a better start last week. All three wins were by double digits – 69-56 over Michigan Center, 68-38 over Hanover-Horton and 69-26 over Jonesville – and Hanover-Horton made the Division 3 Semifinals last winter, after defeating Michigan Center in Regional play. 

Richmond (3-0) The Blue Devils joined Onsted among 12 teams statewide to start 3-0 last week, a great bounce-back after going 4-6 last season with six games canceled. This start is more reminiscent of when the team went 18-4 in 2019-20 – except last week Richmond also got a win over Fraser, 51-49, to go with victories over Marine City and Cardinal Mooney.

Warren Michigan Collegiate (2-0) After missing last season’s Quarterfinals by a one-point loss to Detroit Loyola, Michigan Collegiate opened in a big way last week. The Cougars downed Detroit Mumford by 30 and then defeated Ecorse 72-45 at the Horatio Williams Tip-Off Classic. A Motor City Roundball Classic matchup Dec. 27 with Detroit Renaissance could be telling before Charter School Conference play begins. (UPDATED Jan. 31, 2022; this originally appeared under Division 3, but Michigan Collegiate is in Division 2.)

Division 3

Holton (2-0) Even with last season shortened, Holton has upped its win total each of the last four from six to 10 to 13 to finishing 15-6 last winter. The Red Devils got started on attempting to repeat as champions of the Central State Activities Association Silver with a 46-28 win over Morley Stanwood on Friday, after opening with a 16-point win over Howard City Tri County. 

Division 4 

Lake Linden-Hubbell (2-0) The Lakes play in a strong Copper Country division of the Copper Mountain Conference which features primarily Dollar Bay and Painesdale Jeffers as well. But Lake Linden-Hubbell will try to work its way into the race and got a solid jump on bettering last season’s 7-9 overall finish with a 39-34 win over Hancock and more sizable victory over Baraga. 

New Buffalo (2-0) The Bison are coming off a District title and off to a fast start. They held on for a 77-73 win over Division 1 Sturgis to open, and then won big against Covert to kick off the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference White schedule. New Buffalo was runner-up in the league and 13-4 overall last season.

Can't-Miss Contests

Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:  

Tuesday – Traverse City St. Francis (0-0) at Charlevoix (1-0) – The Lake Michigan Conference race gets going right away, with the reigning champion Rayders taking on one of last season’s co-runners-up.

Thursday – Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (2-0) at Clarkston (2-0) – This is a rematch of a Division 1 Regional Semifinal, won by the Eaglets 38-37 on the way to reaching last season’s Quarterfinals.

Friday – Hudsonville Unity Christian (2-0) at Grand Rapids South Christian (1-1) – Two of the Grand Rapids area’s best were a combined 33-6 last season.

Friday – Detroit U-D Jesuit (3-0) at Ferndale (0-1) – Jesuit lost only one game last season, a Division 1 Regional Final, and Ferndale is coming off a run to the Division 2 Semifinals.

Saturday – Benton Harbor (2-0) vs. Flint Carman-Ainsworth (1-0) at Grand Rapids Union – This Showcase Classic game matches teams that were a combined 29-6 last season.

Second Half’s weekly “Breslin Bound” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

PHOTO Ovid-Elsie, defending, opened with a 56-52 win over Bath last week. (Photo by Christine McCallister.)

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.)