Breslin Bound: 2021-22 Boys Report Week 10

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

February 14, 2022

The boys basketball tournament picture is getting a little clearer as we draw closer to the end of the regular season, allowing coaches to forecast a bit more (and scout) who their teams might face when Districts begin in three weeks.

MI Student Aid

It's also the right time for us to begin envisioning how some of our headlining regular-season games might become rematches next month – and we'll be digging into some of those possibilities over the next few weeks, including a couple we note below. 

“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 65, Detroit Catholic Central 43 The Detroit Catholic League Central has been the setting for one of the most contested league races in recent memory, and the Cubs (10-4) clinched the title after having defeated the Shamrocks (8-7) by only two points in their first meeting.

2. Port Huron Northern 49, St. Clair Shores Lake Shore 47 The Huskies (12-4) faced former co-leader Lake Shore (13-3) twice over seven days and won both to clinch the Macomb Area Conference Blue title outright.

3. Vandercook Lake 65, Napoleon 59 The Jayhawks (13-1) moved into a half-game lead over Michigan Center and one full game ahead of Napoleon (12-2) in the Cascades Conference.

4. Goodrich 43, Flushing 42 The Martians (14-1) won a second one-point game in a row, this one over the Raiders (12-2) in a matchup of teams leading their respective Flint Metro League divisions.

5. Benton Harbor 79, Battle Creek Pennfield 74 The Tigers (13-2) bounced back from their second loss with their best win in terms of MPR against the Panthers (11-3).

Watch List

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

Division 1

Detroit Martin Luther King (15-1) The Crusaders haven’t lost since the season opener against Detroit U-D Jesuit (see below) and are up to No. 2 in Division 1 MPR after going undefeated in a Detroit Public School League Blue that included Cass Tech (14-2), Renaissance and Southeastern (both 11-4). King also has wins over Beecher (13-1), Ann Arbor Huron (11-3), Saginaw (10-6), Kalamazoo Central (10-6) and Grand Blanc (11-4) among others – and if the Crusaders meet Jesuit again, it will be in the Division 1 Final.

Detroit U-D Jesuit (10-4) As noted above, Jesuit clinched the Catholic League Central, a major accomplishment. Additionally, only two of the Cubs’ opponents this season have fewer than 10 wins entering this week, providing another boost behind Jesuit’s No. 1 MPR ranking. The Cubs opened with a 51-42 win over King and can also count nonleague victories over Waterford Mott (11-3) and Macomb Dakota (10-5) along with the impressive run through the conference.

Division 2

Croswell-Lexington (14-0) This is familiar territory for the Pioneers, who are up to a combined 53-3 over the last three seasons. They have a two-game lead over Richmond in the Blue Water Area Conference, having handed the Blue Devils (12-2) a 57-38 defeat Jan. 25 and with the rematch coming up. Wins over Brown City (9-5) and Reese (12-2) have provided further MPR boost as the team sits No. 4 in Division 2 coming off last year’s run to the Quarterfinals.

Escanaba (10-4) After reaching the Quarterfinals last season, the Eskymos loaded their schedule again with many of the Upper Peninsula’s best, and it’s paid off with the No. 1 MPR ranking in Division 2. Escanaba is second in the Great Northern Conference with two losses to Menominee (14-1) and will play the Maroons again Tuesday, but those defeats have provided a boost along with two wins over Kingsford (10-4) and others against Ishpeming Westwood (12-3) and Negaunee (11-5). The two other losses came to teams from Wisconsin.

Division 3

Detroit Loyola (11-4) The Bulldogs have won eight straight to clinch the Detroit Catholic League AA championship and move up to Nov. 5 in Division 3 MPR. Wins over Pontiac Notre Dame Prep and Warren Lincoln (both 12-4) also have provided a boost, and all four losses were to larger schools with at least 11 wins – Hamtramck (11-3), Bloomfield Hills (11-3), Oak Park (11-3) and North Farmington (12-3). Loyola gets another good test in Detroit Country Day (10-3) this week as it looks to build on last season’s Quarterfinal run.

Elk Rapids (9-4) With only one game left against leader Traverse City St. Francis, on Tuesday, and two league losses, Elk Rapids may have to settle for second in the Lake Michigan Conference for the second-straight season. But another big opportunity awaits the Elks, No. 9 in Division 3 MPR. Their District includes St. Francis and the top two teams in the Northwest Conference and second-place team in the Ski Valley Conference – and at the time of this writing, Elk Rapids would be seeded second thanks to wins like the sweep of Boyne City (10-4).

Division 4

Genesee Christian (11-4) The Soldiers have taken a few steps up from last year’s 9-8 finish despite a strong schedule. The Genesee Area Conference Red has four teams 8-4 or better and three with at least 10 wins, and Genesee Christian is up to No. 8 in Division 4 MPR with six victories over teams with eight wins or more. The Soldiers get some benefit from losses to Beecher (13-1) and Flint Hamady (8-4) and have defeated among others Hamady, Lake Fenton (9-5), Clarkston Everest Collegiate (11-3), Webberville (11-4) and Burton Bendle (10-4). They see Bendle again next week.

Lake Leelanau St. Mary (12-3) The No. 7 Eagles have piled up 14 wins two seasons in a row and made the Regional Finals a year ago, and they’re surging toward March again with a 10-game winning streak. St. Mary handed Ellsworth (14-1) its only defeat and also earned solid boosts from victories over Traverse City Christian (12-2) and Flat Rock (13-3) – with the losses to Maple City Glen Lake (13-3), Rudyard (14-0) and Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (8-6).

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Ferndale (12-3) at Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (11-4) – Ferndale is No. 7 in Division 2 MPR and Brother Rice is No. 3 in Division 1

Tuesday – Grand Haven (14-1) at Rockford (15-1) – The Rams won the first meeting and have a one-game lead on the Bucs in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red.

Tuesday – Battle Creek Pennfield (11-3) at Marshall (14-1) – Marshall has a one-game lead in the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference despite falling to co-second place Pennfield 48-44 on Jan. 11.  

Friday – Frankenmuth (11-2) at Freeland (14-0) – The Falcons can clinch a share of the Tri-Valley Conference 8 title, or the Eagles can pull within a half game of the lead if they hand Freeland a first league defeat.

Saturday – Grand Blanc (11-4) at Muskegon (13-1) – The reigning Division 1 champion could bring a 10-game winning streak on the road to face another contender for this season’s title.

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PHOTO Westwood’s Zach Carlson threads a pass while being defended last week by Ishpeming’s Parker Gauthier. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)

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.)