Breslin Bound: 2021-22 Boys Report Week 8

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

January 31, 2022

This week we welcome February, five weeks to go in the boys basketball regular season and 19 teams bringing undefeated records into both.

MI Student Aid

That’s always impressive, of course, given the state’s 700 varsity teams total and competitiveness throughout one of Michigan’s most-played high school sports. Two of those unbeaten teams play in Division 1, eight play in Division 2, three in Division 3 and six in Division 4 – and we highlight three during this week’s “Breslin Bound” report.

“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 Martin Luther King 74, Detroit Renaissance 70 The Crusaders (11-1) enter the final week of the Detroit Public School League Blue schedule in position to clinch thanks in part to this win over the formerly co-leading Phoenix (9-3).

2. Grand Blanc 64, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 63 The Bobcats (6-4) are the last team undefeated in Saginaw Valley League play thanks to this win over the second-place Cavaliers (6-4).

3. Maple City Glen Lake 64, Benzie Central 58 The Lakers (9-3) handed Benzie its first defeat, in the process moving into a tie for first in the Northwest Conference with the Huskies (10-1) and with their rematch scheduled for Feb. 25.

4. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 47, Warren De La Salle Collegiate 34 The Detroit Catholic League Central continues to reshuffle weekly, now with St. Mary’s (9-2) and Detroit U-D Jesuit tied for first but every team within a game of the lead and the Pilots (9-3) tied for most overall wins among league teams.

5. Detroit University Prep 57, Carrollton 56 The Panthers (4-6) have to be one of the best sub-.500 teams in Michigan, mostly recently handing Carrollton (10-1) its first loss, and after defeats by six or fewer points to Benton Harbor, Detroit Renaissance and Carman-Ainsworth.

Watch List

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

Division 1

Bloomfield Hills (10-2) The Black Hawks are undefeated aside from a pair of losses at December’s Motor City Roundball Classic, to Detroit Renaissance and Detroit Catholic Central (8-3), which actually help fill out a strong body of work overall. Six of Bloomfield Hills’ wins are against teams .500 or better, and the Black Hawks also have an early upper hand as they seek to repeat as Oakland Activities Association White champions.

Muskegon (10-0) There are plenty of highlights to rattle off from the Big Reds’ start. After finishing second in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green last year, Muskegon is two games ahead of the rest atop the league standings. The Big Reds avenged two losses from last season to reigning league champ Zeeland East with Friday’s 58-42 win, and Muskegon also has handed Benton Harbor (11-1) its only defeat, 84-58 on Jan. 8. Only Reeths-Puffer, the second-place team in the Green, has gotten closer than 11 points.

Division 2

Battle Creek Pennfield (9-2) The Panthers’ first run to the MHSAA Finals was one of the feel-good stories of the abbreviated 2020-21 season, and they could be finding their footing again after a couple of mid-January league losses to Battle Creek Harper Creek (9-3) and Coldwater (9-1). Those came immediately after Pennfield handed Marshall (11-1) its only loss. The Panthers will have plenty of opportunities to show what they can do with six games coming up against teams with at least nine wins so far, including rematches with all three of those league foes plus a home game with Benton Harbor.

Hudsonville Unity Christian (12-0) The Crusaders appear on their way to a sixth-straight league title, with a two-game lead in the O-K Blue after the first run through the league schedule. Only one opponent – Grandville Calvin Christian (see below) in a 78-76 Unity win on Dec. 10 – has gotten closer than 10 points. The Crusaders defeated the second and third-place teams in the Blue by 10 and 31 points, respectively, last week.

Division 3

Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (10-2) The Chargers haven’t stopped moving coming off of last season’s Quarterfinal run. Generally playing larger schools, they did avenge a 2021 loss to Wyoming Tri-unity Christian so far with the only losses to Division 2 Unity and Forest Hills Eastern (9-3) in December. Covenant doesn’t play in a league, but did claim a Cornerstone University Holiday Tournament title with wins over Division 2 Allendale and Division 1 Muskegon Mona Shores.

Grandville Calvin Christian (8-3) The Squires continue to put distance between themselves and an 0-3 start that concluded with an overtime loss to Covenant (see above). Calvin defeated former co-leader Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 75-62 on Friday to move into first place alone in the O-K Silver. Also bringing context to that winless start – the first two defeats came to Division 2 Holland Christian (7-5) and Unity.

Division 4

Clarkston Everest Collegiate (8-2) The Mountaineers are coming off their second loss, to Genesee Christian (10-2), but defeats have been few lately as Everest is a combined 23-5 over the last two years. The Mountaineers lead the Detroit Catholic League Intersectional #2 as they look to extend their league title streak to three, and they have notable wins over Marine City Cardinal Mooney (9-3) and Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (9-4).

McBain Northern Michigan Christian (10-0) The Comets are only one game into the second half of the Highland Conference schedule but already three games ahead of the field as they pursue what would be a first league title in at least a decade. It’s been an impressive rise for NMC, which broke a seven-season streak of sub-.500 finishes by going 12-3 (and also winning a District title) a year ago.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – East Lansing (10-3) at Williamston (12-0) – The leaders of the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue and Red, respectively, match up with the winner likely considered the Lansing area’s best.

Tuesday – Dearborn (10-1) at Belleville (7-3) – Belleville has a one-game lead on Dearborn in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East thanks to a 63-43 win on Jan. 4.

Friday – Kalamazoo Central (9-4) at Richland Gull Lake (8-4) – Gull Lake won the first meeting, 78-75 in overtime Dec. 16, and they’re tied atop the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East

Friday – Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (9-2) at Detroit Catholic Central (8-3) – St. Mary’s won the first meeting 75-64 and could begin breaking up the tightly-packed league standings with a big week that starts on the road at De La Salle.

Saturday – Ferndale (8-2) vs. Muskegon (10-0) at Cornerstone University – Contenders in Divisions 2 and 1, respectively, face off at the RedHawk Challenge.

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 A pair of Carman-Ainsworth defenders wall off the passing lanes during last week’s 64-63 loss to Grand Blanc. (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.)