Breslin Bound: 2021-22 Boys Report Week 12

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

February 28, 2022

We're hours from the beginning of March and less than a week from the start of the MHSAA Boys Basketball Tournament.

MI Student Aid

Although District seeds have been determined and brackets posted, there are still plenty of teams with plenty on the line as we finish up the regular season. We highlight some of those below, plus take a look at a few more contenders before switching into "Breslin Bound" playoff mode next 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. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 65, Detroit U-D Jesuit 43 The Eaglets’ win over Detroit Catholic League Central champ Jesuit (12-5) in the Bishop Tournament semifinal set St. Mary’s (15-4) up to go on and down Detroit Catholic Central in the final. 

2. Onaway 84, Mancelona 50 Onaway (18-1) clinched its first league title in this sport since 1963, defeating runner-up Mancelona (13-6) in the Ski Valley Conference. 

3. Detroit Martin Luther King 66, Detroit Western 38 The Crusaders added the Detroit Public School League Tournament title to their PSL Blue championship with this win over PSL Gold winner Western (15-4).

4. Flint Beecher 63, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 60 The Bucs (17-1) appear ready for another Division 3 title run, that assumption backed up again by this close win over the Division 1 Cavaliers (13-5).  

5. Macomb Dakota 65, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 45 These two shared the Macomb Area Conference Red title, but Dakota (14-5) claimed the MAC Red/White Tournament championship with its second win over the Big Reds (13-6) in three meetings this season.

Watch List

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

Division 1

Canton (15-4) The Chiefs opened this season with four consecutive losses (all to teams that have won at least 11 games). Canton has not lost since and will take on Hartland on Tuesday in hopes of adding the Kensington Lakes Activities Association Tournament title to the KLAA West championship clinched two weeks ago against the Eagles (15-4). The division title was the team’s first since 2018-19, and Canton then defeated Dearborn (15-4) in a KLAA Tournament semifinal.

Detroit Cass Tech (15-3) Although Cass Tech missed out on playing in the PSL Tournament final, having lost to Western in a semifinal, there is still plenty of reason to believe the Technicians could emerge as champs of one of the state’s strongest Districts next week. Cass lost to Western 57-51, and its other defeats to King and Clarkston (11-7) were both by five or fewer points. Meanwhile, the Technicians have downed Carman-Ainsworth, Detroit Southeastern (12-5), Detroit Edison (12-6), and Detroit Renaissance (11-7) twice, among others.

Division 2

Carrollton (17-2) The Cavaliers have guaranteed themselves a share of the Tri-Valley Conference 10 title, and their two losses this season were by a combined seven points including by six to league rival Standish-Sterling (18-1). Carrollton also has a win over Standish and two apiece over Ithaca (15-5) and Hemlock (13-6). The Cavaliers were a one-point loss from making the Division 2 Quarterfinals last season and could be on the verge of a similar run.

Romulus Summit Academy (16-2) The Dragons have won 14 straight, including a perfect run through the Charter School Conference West and league tournament. Total, nine of their wins are over teams with at least 10 victories, with last week’s by 19 points over Romulus (11-4) sticking out recently along with victories over Warren Michigan Collegiate (13-2) by 22 and Edison by five during the league playoffs. Summit reached the Division 2 Quarterfinals a year ago after similar regular-season success.

Division 3

Benzie Central (17-1) The Huskies downed Maple City Glen Lake 58-45 on Friday to win the Northwest Conference title, its first since 2011-12. It’s been a solid jump from finishing fourth and 10-9 overall last season, with the only loss this winter 64-56 in the first meeting against Glen Lake (15-5) on Jan. 25. All but two of Benzie’s wins have been by double digits and have included a pair over Buckley (14-4) and another over Lake Leelanau St. Mary (14-4).

Pewamo-Westphalia (14-4) Second-year coach Dominic Schneider has picked up where longtime coach Luke Pohl left off, leading the Pirates to a combined 26-7 record over the last two seasons. P-W clinched a share of the Central Michigan Athletic Conference title Friday and can claim it outright with a win in either of two games this week against teams at the bottom of the standings. The Pirates started the season 2-3, then won 12 straight before falling to undefeated Freeland (19-0) by six Saturday.

Division 4

Southfield Christian (15-3) The Eagles are annual Finals contenders and reached the Quarterfinals last season before falling to eventual champion Detroit Douglass. Two of their three losses this winter were to Division 2 teams, Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard (13-4) and Detroit Country Day (11-7), with the third to Plymouth Christian Academy (11-7) resulting in their shared Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue title. Tuesday’s matchup with Clarkston Everest Collegiate (13-5) will provide more prep for the postseason.

Ubly (14-3) The Bearcats clinched their second-straight Greater Thumb Conference East championship outright last week and also posted an impressive win over Deckerville (14-5). Ubly’s losses were to GTC East third-place Memphis (13-6) twice, by a combined five points, and GTC West runner-up Bad Axe (17-2). The Bearcats could see Deckerville again next week as they pursue a repeat District title as well.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Hartland (15-4) at Canton (15-4) – As noted above, these two will meet for the KLAA Tournament championship after finishing second and first, respectively, in the West.

Tuesday – Menominee (17-2) at Ewen-Trout Creek (15-3) – Two of the Upper Peninsula’s best offer each other a final regular-season test heading into the playoffs.

Tuesday – Waterford Mott (14-3) at White Lake Lakeland (16-3) – Mott also must play South Lyon on Thursday, but has a half-game lead on Lakeland at the top of the Lakes Valley Conference standings after winning the first meeting 44-35 on Jan. 25.

Thursday – Flint Beecher (17-1) at Grand Blanc (13-5) – The Bobcats are not taking it easy during the last week of the regular season, taking on the Bucs after opening the week against River Rouge.

Thursday – Blanchard Montabella (17-1) at Carson City Crystal (16-3) – Montabella has a one-game lead in the Mid-State Activities Conference heading into this season finale, but the Eagles won the first meeting 45-42 on Jan. 26.

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 Flint Metro League Stripes champion Flushing downed Corunna 63-45 in nonleague play last week. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)

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.)