Breslin Bound: 2021-22 Boys Report Week 9

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

February 7, 2022

Four weeks remain this boys basketball regular season, and some important dates are coming up.

MI Student Aid

In two weeks, Feb. 21, the MHSAA will announce the formula for drawing this season’s District tournaments.

On Feb. 27, Districts will be posted with the top-two seeded teams on opposite sides of those brackets.

On March 7, those Districts will begin play and the MHSAA Tournament will be underway.

For a more detailed explanation of the seeding process, click here. Much still can change – three league tournaments begin this week and other conferences will be decided over the next few, meaning plenty of MPR-tilting matchups are ahead.

“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. Ferndale 57, Muskegon 46 The Eagles (10-2) moved up to the No. 1 spot in Division 2 MPR after handing Division 1 Muskegon (11-1) its lone defeat during Saturday’s Showcase at Cornerstone University.

2. Grand Rapids Northview 68, Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 64 (OT) The Wildcats (13-0) had gained steam as one of the Grand Rapids area’s best, but picked up some statewide clout by getting past the Warriors (9-4) at Cornerstone.

3. Detroit Edison 71, Benton Harbor 51 The Pioneers (9-5) have won six straight and followed up a two-point victory over Detroit Renaissance on Feb. 1 by handing the Tigers (12-2) their second loss, also at Cornerstone.

4. Michigan Center 68, Vandercook Lake 66 In avenging an earlier 70-56 loss, the Cardinals (8-4) pulled Vandercook Lake (11-1) into a first-place tie in the Cascades Conference (with Napoleon) and pulled within a half-game of the co-leaders.

5. Whitehall 55, Ravenna 41 These two are tied atop the West Michigan Conference both at 8-4 overall after Ravenna had won their first meeting by 24 in December.

Watch List

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

Division 1

Grand Rapids Northview (13-0) The Wildcats had hung around the top of the Ottawa-Kent Conference White the last four seasons, but enter this week with a one-game lead in the standings and coming off one of its best wins this season over Brother Rice (see above). Northview is followed in the White by Grand Rapids Christian, with the rematch Tuesday after the Wildcats won the first matchup 64-51 on Jan. 11 – which avenged a 19-point loss from a year ago. Brother Rice was the only opponent to get closer than 10 points this winter.

Oak Park (10-3) Five of seven teams in the Oakland Activities Association Red have winning records, and Oak Park is one of three with 10 wins after last week’s over North Farmington (10-3) and West Bloomfield. The Knights were 5-8 last season and are seeking their first above-.500 finish since 2018-19. They’ll get opportunities to avenge losses to Clarkston (8-4) and Ferndale (10-2) later this month, and they also own wins over Warren Lincoln (11-4) and Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (10-4).

Division 2

Ferndale (10-2) After winning the OAA Red last season and reaching the Division 2 Semifinals, Ferndale returning to the top of the league isn’t a surprise. But the Eagles also are No. 1 in Division 2 MPR despite cancellations against multiple high-caliber opponents, a testament to the competition they’ve seen and defeated. The losses were to Division 1 Warren De La Salle Collegiate (10-4) and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (11-3), and Ferndale has wins over Detroit U-D Jesuit (8-4), Port Huron Northern (10-3), North Farmington and Oak Park (both 10-3) and now Muskegon (11-1), as noted above.

Williamston (15-0) With last week’s 66-37 win over East Lansing (11-4), the Hornets can make a strong argument as the Lansing area’s top team – and no opponent locally or from afar has gotten closer than 15 points of catching the Hornets this season. They lead the Capital Area Activities Conference Red as they pursue what would be a 10th-straight league title, and they also reached the Regional Finals last year. Additionally, Williamston owns victories over North Farmington (10-3) and Ann Arbor Skyline (9-4) this winter.

Division 3

Ishpeming Westwood (10-2) The Patriots are in the hunt for what would be a first league title in at least a decade as they and Negaunee (9-4) are top contenders in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference East. Westwood won the first matchup and lost the second between the two and also has a pair of solid wins over Iron Mountain (8-3) highlighting a first half that saw all 10 victories come by double digits.

Menominee (13-1) The Maroons are undefeated against in-state opponents and need one more victory to clinch a share of the Great Northern Conference championship – which would be a first since 2015-16. A triple-overtime win over Marquette on Friday was the latest highlight, and Menominee also handed Powers North Central (12-1) its lone defeat and picked up wins over Petoskey (8-5), Escanaba (7-4) and Kingsford (8-4) among others.

Division 4

Bellevue (10-1) The Broncos are working toward a Southern Central Athletic Association West title, their only loss nonleague by five at the end of December to Bronson. Hillsdale Academy (8-2) in early December came within nine; another opponent came within 11 and the other eight wins were by at least 20 points including over Colon (10-2). A rematch with the Magi on Feb. 16 and Climax-Scotts (7-4) on Feb. 25 are possibly the toughest tests left as Bellevue looks to run its league championship streak to seven.

Powers North Central (12-1) The Jets also have been big winners all season, with all of their victories by double digits and that only loss to Menominee (see above) – with a rematch against the Maroons set for Tuesday. North Central also has a pair of games coming up with Munising (13-1) as it looks to prep for the playoffs. The Jets already have swept the regular-season series with Carney-Nadeau, which knocked them out of the District a year ago.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Monday – Port Huron Northern (10-3) at St. Clair Shores Lake Shore (13-2) – Northern won last week’s first meeting 59-41 to clinch a share of the Macomb Area Conference Blue title, and the Huskies will either claim the championship outright or share it with Lake Shore depending on this result.

Tuesday – Detroit U-D Jesuit (8-4) at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (11-3) – With one fewer league loss, Jesuit has a half-game lead over the Eaglets in the Detroit Catholic League Central and won the first meeting 65-61.

Tuesday – Goodrich (12-1) at Flushing (11-1) – The leaders of the two Flint Metro League divisions face off in nonleague play.

Friday – Marshall (13-1) at Coldwater (10-1) – These two are tied atop an Interstate 8 Athletic Conference with four teams at 10 or more wins; Marshall won the first meeting 64-55.

Friday – Vandercook Lake (11-1) at Napoleon (11-1) – This could end up the decider in the Cascades Conference as they are tied with one league loss apiece; the Jayhawks won the first meeting 61-54.

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 Goodrich defeated Lake Fenton 73-59 on Jan. 24. They are in first and second, respectively, in the Flint Metro League Stars. (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.)