Breslin Bound: 2021-22 Boys Report Week 11

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

February 21, 2022

The first 12 weeks of this boys basketball season will culminate in a highly-anticipated announcement this week.

MI Student Aid

Sunday morning, District brackets will be released with the top two teams seeded in each based on thousands of results going back to the start of December – including a few more that likely will have an impact this week.

“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. Muskegon 84, Grand Blanc 79 The Big Reds (16-1) picked up a massive weekend win, downing the reigning Division 1 champion Bobcats (12-5) on Saturday. 

2. Detroit Western 57, Detroit Cass Tech 53 The Cowboys (15-3) were coming off the Detroit Public School League Gold championship and earned a spot in the PSL Tournament championship game by downing the East runner-up Technicians (15-3).

3. Grand Haven 54, Rockford 51 The Buccaneers (16-1) avenged their 62-56 loss to the Rams 16-2 from Jan. 18 to move into a tie for first in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red. 

4. East Lansing 68, Okemos 63 The Trojans (15-4) finished Capital Area Activities Conference Blue play as the outright league champion, sending Okemos (12-3) into second. 

5. Romulus Summit Academy 67, Warren Michigan Collegiate 45 The Dragons (14-2) finished an impressive run through the Charter School Conference Tournament with wins over Detroit Edison (12-6) and then Michigan Collegiate (13-2) in the final. 

Watch List

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

Division 1

Detroit Catholic Central (9-7) This speaks to the level competition DCC has faced this season – the Shamrocks finished fifth in the Detroit Catholic League Central but are No. 4 in statewide Division 1 MPR. Every team they’ve played has a winning record, and 15 games came against teams with at least 10 wins. DCC avenged a Feb. 8 loss to Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (11-6) with a 66-64 win to open Catholic League Bishop Tournament play Saturday and earned solid early-season wins over Rockford and Hamtramck (13-3).

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (13-4) Perhaps no team in any division faced higher expectations heading into this season, and the Eaglets will pursue the Bishop Tournament championship this week potentially on the verge of a run heading into postseason play. They finished third in the Central, but three of their four losses were by a combined seven points. Similar to DCC, 12 games have come against opponents with at least 10 wins, and some of the best victories outside the league were against Grand Rapids Christian (13-4), Grand Blanc (12-5), Ferndale (13-3) and Canton (13-4).    

Division 2

Benton Harbor (14-2) The Tigers have appeared to be fueling up for another long tournament run, as they sit No. 7 in Division 2 MPR with losses only to Muskegon and Edison. Benton Harbor has six wins over teams with double-digit victories, including over Battle Creek Pennfield (11-5) in overtime and Kalamazoo Central (10-7) in double overtime over the last two weeks. An early victory over Flint Carman-Ainsworth (11-4) also continues to impress as the Tigers prepare to build on last year’s run to the Quarterfinals.

Standish-Sterling (16-1) The rest of the Tri-Valley Conference 10 has been chasing Carrollton all season, and last week Standish-Sterling caught up with a 70-64 win over the Cavaliers to give both a single league defeat with two weeks to play. The Panthers’ only loss was 77-69 to Carrollton (16-2) on Jan. 18. A pair of wins over Ithaca (14-4) and another over Reese (14-2) have helped boost Standish to No. 12 in Division 2 MPR.

Division 3

Riverview Gabriel Richard (17-0) The Pioneers have been a Catholic League force for a few seasons with this winter’s Intersectional #1 title its third straight division championship. But much more could be in store as Richard looks to win this week’s Cardinal Tournament on the way to the postseason. Victories over Dearborn Divine Child (10-7) and Erie Mason (10-5) are among others that are notable, and they were two of only three opponents to give the Pioneers a single-digit game this season.

Schoolcraft (15-2) It’s a good season to be an Eagle, as combined with the girls team the school’s varsities are a combined 33-3. The boys team handed Parchment (17-1) its only loss Friday to create a shared championship in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley. Parchment on Dec. 10 handed Schoolcraft its first defeat; the other came to Division 1 Hudsonville. Wins against Pewamo-Westphalia (12-3) and twice each over Fennville (12-5) and Kalamazoo Christian (12-6) also have helped Schoolcraft reach No. 7 in Division 3 MPR.

Division 4

Buckley (14-4) The Bears can’t catch co-leaders Benzie Central and Maple City Glen Lake in the Northwest Conference but give the league another strong representative heading into the playoffs. Those two combined to give Buckley three of its losses, and the Bears won their first meeting with Glen Lake (15-3). The other defeat came Saturday in double overtime to undefeated Mesick (17-0), and a pair of wins over Traverse City Christiaan (12-4) also have helped Buckley move up to No. 8 in Division 4 MPR.

Eau Claire (13-4) The Fighting Beavers would need some help to catch Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference White leader New Buffalo, but regardless this has been a memorable turnaround after going 5-8 a year ago. The team’s last eight wins have come by nine points or more, and the losses were solid, against New Buffalo (16-1), Three Oaks River Valley (12-5) and Buchanan (10-6). Eau Claire sees New Buffalo and River Valley again over the next two weeks and shares a District with both as well.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Monday – Detroit Western (15-3) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (17-1) at Oakland University – As noted above, this will determine the champion of the PSL Tournament. 

Tuesday – Munising (14-1) at Powers North Central (14-2) – These Division 4 statewide contenders will face off twice over the next two weeks. 

Tuesday – Romulus (10-2) at Romulus Summit Academy (14-2) – Romulus High leads the Western Wayne Athletic Conference, and Summit just finished clinching the Charter School Conference West and tournament titles. 

Friday – Maple City Glen Lake (15-3) at Benzie Central (15-1) – These two both will enter with one loss in the Northwest Conference and the winner taking the league title outright. 

Saturday – Detroit Catholic League Bishop final at Eastern Michigan University – The winners of Wednesday’s semifinals (U-D Jesuit/Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and Detroit Catholic Central/De La Salle) face off for the championship.

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 Muskegon and Benton Harbor, here during a Jan. 8 Big Reds win, are among teams expected to contend in their respective divisions when MHSAA playoffs begin in two weeks. (Photo 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.)