Breslin Bound: 2021-22 Boys Report Week 5

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

January 10, 2022

Every basketball season, with little research needed, we can list at least a handful of elite teams we’ll be talking about often as they make their way toward possible March trips to the Breslin Center.

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But as we reach mid-January, teams big, small, north, south and all points between are still in the early stages of creating the stories of their seasons. And this week’s report includes a pretty good mix of regulars and others we haven’t highlighted for quite a while.

“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. Flint Beecher 75, Grand Rapids Catholic Central 69 The reigning Division 3 champion Bucs (6-0) ended reigning Division 2 champ GRCC's winning streak at 27 games.  

2. Muskegon 84, Benton Harbor 58 This Big Red Classic win moved host Muskegon to 4-0, and it should earn the Big Reds some significant attention as it also was the first defeat for the Tigers (6-1).

3. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 65, Grand Blanc 62 The reigning Division 1 champ Bobcats may be only 1-3, but at their Classic they gave the Eaglets (4-2) the latter’s toughest challenge so far this season.

4. North Farmington 45, Clarkston 43 The Oakland Activities Association Red is one of the strongest leagues in the state, and this opener was a big first step for the contending Raiders (7-1).

5. Detroit Edison 66, Harper Woods Chandler Park 60 The Pioneers (2-3) have played four teams either unbeaten or with one loss, and Chandler Park (2-1) is one of two teams to which they’ve dealt that first defeat.

Watch List

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

Division 1

East Lansing (6-1) After opening with a loss to another of the top teams in Division 1, North Farmington (see above), the Trojans have won six straight with four of those victories against teams with winning records. They handed Hamtramck (5-1) its lone loss during the Motor City Roundball Classic after edging Kalamazoo Central by three at Cornerstone University. East Lansing made the Division 1 Quarterfinals last season.

Grand Haven (6-0) The Buccaneers are following up last season’s District title run with a fast start this winter. They defeated Traverse City St. Francis and West to win their Lakeshore Cup at the end of December, and have dealt the lone defeats to St. Francis (5-1) and Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (4-1).

Division 2

Marshall (6-0) Five of Marshall’s six opponents are sitting .500 or better, making this start even more impressive. But it appears to be a continuation of last season’s surge. The Redhawks finished last winter 10-6 and on a 9-3 run, and Tuesday they get a chance to avenge their season-ending loss with a road trip to Battle Creek Pennfield.

Ovid-Elsie (6-0) The Marauders have won league titles four of the last five seasons, with a runner-up finish in the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference a year ago. They’re back in the thick of things, tied with Chesaning for first at 4-0 in league play and with a 37-31 win over another possible contender in Durand (4-2).

Division 3

Blanchard Montabella (5-0) The Mustangs already are in line for their best season since 2018-19 after winning seven games a year ago and six the season before. The best victory so far came in mid-December, 51-43 over Mid-State Activities Conference foe Breckenridge, which remains the Huskies’ lone loss. Montabella lost to Breckenridge by seven and 32 last season.

Union City (6-1) The Chargers won six games last season and a combined 10 over the last two. But after opening with a loss to still-undefeated Olivet this winter, Union City has yet to lose again – with a two-point win over Buchanan on Dec. 18 its only single-digit victory of the run.

Division 4

Ellsworth (7-0) The Lancers are seeking a fifth-consecutive Northern Lakes Conference championship this winter, and they’re off to the right start with five wins by double digits and one of the single-digit victories last week over league foe Mackinaw City. Coming off a District title as well from last season, they’ve gotten rolling again quickly as well; Ellsworth is one of only eight teams statewide that has reached seven wins entering this week.

Ewen-Trout Creek (5-0) The Panthers are playing for a third-straight championship in the Porcupine Mountain division of the Copper Mountain Conference. Among their first five wins are the lone defeat for Wakefield-Marenisco and an avenging of last year’s District Final loss to Bessemer. E-TC opened the calendar year last week with a 35-point win over Dollar Bay, winner of 15 games a year ago.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (6-0) at Warren De La Salle Collegiate (7-0) – The Detroit Catholic League Central will do some initial sorting out this week, with this one of a handful of contests that could reshape the early standings. (In another, Brother Rice faces Detroit U-D Jesuit on this night.) 

Tuesday – Dexter (4-0) at Ann Arbor Huron (4-1) – These are the early co-leaders in a Southeastern Conference Red featuring four teams unbeaten or with one loss.

Tuesday – Alma (6-0) at Freeland (5-0) – Three teams remain undefeated in Tri-Valley Conference 8 play, and Freeland gets the third, Frankenmuth, on Friday.

Tuesday – Napoleon (6-0) at Vandercook Lake (6-0) – These are two of three teams tied for first in the Cascades Conference, and also the only two in the league with overall winning records.

Friday – Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (6-0) at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (6-0) – This pits the two Catholic League Central teams that arguably have generated the most buzz.

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 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s traveled to Grand Blanc on Saturday and won 65-62 in one of the week’s most notable games. (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.)