Breslin Bound: 2022-23 Boys Regional Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 13, 2023

If last week’s Districts were an indication, watch out as the final 128 boys basketball teams make their way through the final two weeks of this MHSAA Tournament.

MI Student Aid

Six of 16 teams that reached the Breslin Center in 2022 saw their 2023 runs end last week. So too did two of the top seven (including No. 1) in this regular season’s Division 1 Michigan Power Ratings (MPR), five of the top 10 in Division 2, two of the top six in Division 3 and two of the top four in Division 4.

Below are glances at five of the most noteworthy results from District week, and a few more details on three Regionals of note in every division.

Once again, everything you could want to know this week about tickets, brackets and more can be found on the Boys Basketball page. To watch any of several games online, visit the NFHS Network.

“Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at

Week in Review

The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:

1. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 57, Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 50 The Eaglets (11-10) were the second seed in their District but still sent a shockwave through the entire bracket in upsetting arguably the overall Division 1 favorite Warriors (22-2).

2. Warren Michigan Collegiate 60, Warren Lincoln 55 The Cougars (20-2) took a big step as one of the overall favorites in Division 2 in downing another popular pick in Lincoln (19-5).

3. Menominee 60, Iron Mountain 54 The Maroons (14-10) had some retooling to do this winter after graduating standouts from last year’s Division 3 runner-up finisher, but they’ve won five straight and clinched this District title by avenging a 12-point Feb. 6 loss to the Mountaineers (21-2).

4. Michigan Center 49, Napoleon 46 After losing their first meeting by 17 and their second by only five, Michigan Center (17-7) pulled even and got past the league rival Pirates (22-2) in another Division 3 District Final.

5. Cadillac 56, Hart 32 One of the most competitive Districts in any division was clinched by the Big North Conference co-champion Vikings (20-4), who dealt the Pirates (23-1) their lone loss.

Holt’s Isaiah Foster (4) finds a teammate during the Rams’ win Friday over Mason.

Regionals at a Glance

These could be among our most competitive brackets. Host sites are in bold:


Kalamazoo Central (20-3) vs. East Lansing (14-9), Holt (16-9) vs. Battle Creek Central (16-7)

Longtime power Kalamazoo Central has reached 20 wins for the first time since 2016-17 and is playing for a second-straight Regional title. An intriguing Regional Final could await as a Feb. 23 rematch with longtime rival Battle Creek Central was snowed out after the Maroon Giants won their first meeting 63-51 on Jan. 19. Standing in the way are a pair of teams from the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue, and probably not the ones anticipated. East Lansing finished third in the league but upset champion Lansing Waverly on Friday, and sixth-place Holt eliminated league runner-up Okemos in a District Semifinal.

Holland West Ottawa
Rockford (18-7) vs. Hudsonville (17-7), East Kentwood (18-6) vs. Muskegon (22-2)

A District Final upset also plays into this bracket as Rockford defeated 2022 Division 1 semifinalist Grand Rapids Northview 53-49 on Friday. The Rams next see Hudsonville for the third time after winning the first two matchups by three and one point. Both of those teams finished behind champion East Kentwood in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red, the Falcons sweeping Rockford and splitting with Hudsonville but winning the second meeting by 12. But amid all of the O-K Red, O-K Green champion Muskegon is arguably the favorite this week – and tonight’s matchup is especially notable as Big Reds coach Keith Guy and Falcons coach Mike Thomas have had tons of success at the championship levels of the MHSAA Tournament.

Detroit U-D Jesuit (20-4) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (11-10), Troy (18-6) vs. North Farmington (21-1)

This bracket was going to be power-packed no matter what, and features an added storyline after St. Mary’s avenged two defeats to Brother Rice in winning their District Final. Next up is another Catholic League Central power, and the Eaglets and Cubs split this season – St. Mary’s winning by three and then Jesuit winning by 15 in the rematch. On the other side, North Farmington has been considered among a handful of Division 1 favorites all season long. The Raiders have won 17 straight but face a Colts team that’s steadily been rising from six wins two seasons ago to 13 last year. If they both win tonight, this is sure to be brought up before Wednesday: St. Mary’s defeated North Farmington 46-44 in a Regional Semifinal last season.


Bridgeport (20-4) vs. Flint Hamady (18-4), Shepherd (20-4) vs. Saginaw (18-6)

After an uncharacteristic 8-13 finish a year ago, Bridgeport is back and an intriguing contender this week riding an eight-game winning streak. Hamady is another, having reached the Regional Final last season and losing this one only to rival Flint Beecher twice, Detroit University Prep and Division 1 Davison. Shepherd has been a great story enjoying its best season in at least a decade. But a lot of eyes will be on Saginaw High, which is nearing its end as one of the most legendary programs in state history as the school will merge with Arthur Hill in 2024. The Trojans lost to Hamady in a Regional Semifinal last season, but all of their defeats this winter came against strong Division 1 teams.

Kingsford (20-3) vs. Boyne City (20-4), Cadillac (20-4) vs. Standish-Sterling (22-0)

On paper alone, this might be the most competitive Regional in any division. All four are league champions in addition to 20-game winners – and none has faced any of the others this winter. Cadillac emerged as the Regional champ from a similar grouping a year ago, defeating Standish-Sterling along the way, and that remains the Panthers’ only loss over their last 37 games. The Flivvers were 6-15 just three seasons ago but lost to only one instate opponent this season – 21-game winner Iron Mountain twice. Boyne has had several solid wins and good losses as well, and it shared the Lake Michigan Conference title with Traverse City St. Francis, which is still playing in Division 3. Cadillac’s losses all came to Division 1 teams as it shared the Big North Conference title with Traverse City Central.

Imlay City
Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (11-13) vs. Croswell-Lexington (21-3), Richmond (22-2) vs. Goodrich (20-4)

A third matchup of Blue Water Area Conference co-champions Croswell-Lexington and Richmond could be on the way in the Regional Final, with Richmond winning their first meeting by nine and Cros-Lex the rematch by the same margin. It would seem the Blue Devils have the tougher challenge to set up that opportunity, as Goodrich was one of three co-champions in the Flint Metro League Stars and reached the Regional Final a year ago. But don’t count out the Fighting Irish – they defeated Goodrich in that Regional Final last season (although Goodrich avenged with a 15-point win Jan. 6) and have won five of their last seven while playing 19 games this winter against teams with winning records.  


Detroit Edison
Detroit Edison (15-9) vs. Madison Heights Bishop Foley (12-11), New Haven (17-7) vs. Detroit Loyola (23-1)

Loyola reached the Regional Final last season and lost this season only to Division 1 Flint Carman-Ainsworth, along the way defeating Bishop Foley by 23 and several larger opponents as well. New Haven is the team that defeated Loyola in last year’s Regional Final, and the Rockets are plenty prepared for this week after navigating a schedule that also included mostly Division 1 teams. Edison has played the same; few teams in any division have a more impressive list of losses, and the Pioneers claimed notable wins over River Rouge and Detroit Western coming off a Division 2 Quarterfinal run a year ago. Bishop Foley loaded it up its final weeks of the regular season and defeated 18-win Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest in their District Final.

Laingsburg (23-0) vs. Jonesville (19-5), Michigan Center (17-7) vs. Leslie (18-6)

The Wolfpack have nearly doubled their victory total from a season ago and downed 18-game winner Ovid-Elsie by 40 in the District Final; Laingsburg has yet to play a single-digit game this season. Jonesville should provide one of its strongest challenges. The Big 8 Conference champion nearly handed 21-game winner Napoleon what would’ve been its first loss, falling to the Pirates by just a basket two weeks ago. After eliminating Napoleon in a District Final, Michigan Center is playing for a second-straight Regional title and opens with a relatively familiar opponent after defeating Leslie 64-55 on Dec. 13. The Blackhawks have won 11 of their last 13 games, however, and five of their losses came to teams that won 20 games or District titles.

Kent City
Blanchard Montabella (22-2) vs. Grandville Calvin Christian (23-1), Pewamo-Westphalia (17-6) vs. North Muskegon (19-4)

More success this week would just add to a great story for Montabella, which won six games three seasons ago, improved to seven and then jumped to 18-4 last winter before further dominating this one. The Squires, meanwhile, haven’t received a ton of fanfare this season but deserve it – their only loss was to Division 2 Hudsonville Unity Christian on Dec. 9, and they won an O-K Silver that has seen five teams win 14 or more games. P-W finished second to Laingsburg in the Central Michigan Athletic Conference and defeated Calvin Christian during last year’s Regional on the way to reaching the Quarterfinals. The Pirates have won five straight following a three-game losing streak near the end of February. North Muskegon made the Regional Semifinals in 2022 and its Regional Final the season before, and a championship this week would be its first at this level of the playoffs since 2003.  


Baldwin (22-1) vs. Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (18-6), Lansing Christian (15-9) vs. Fruitport Calvary Christian (14-9)

Reigning Division 4 champion Tri-unity always seems to be a contender, and this season is no different as the Defenders can boast notable wins over reigning Division 3 champion Schoolcraft and P-W (see above) among others. But Baldwin could be its biggest challenge so far, its only loss to Division 2 Remus Chippewa Hills in mid-January and with a pair of big wins over Mesick (19-5) highlighting its run. On the other side, Lansing Christian has emerged as the smallest school from a Greater Lansing Activities Conference that included Leslie, and after the Pilgrims finished just 5-16 a year ago. Calvary Christian plays in the Alliance League with Tri-unity and opened this surge with its best win, by 23 over Saugatuck to start the final week of the regular season.

St. Ignace
Munising (22-1) vs. Rudyard (19-5), Mackinaw City (20-4) vs. Onaway (21-3)

Munising hasn’t played a team with less than a winning record since the last day of January, making its run even more impressive. The Mustangs edged Rudyard 67-64 on Feb. 8, but Rudyard has lost only once since – to Division 1 Sault Ste. Marie – and swept Brimley, the only team to defeat Munising. Mackinaw City and Onaway both won league championships and also faced off twice this season, Mackinaw City winning 76-70 during the first week and Onaway avenging 87-74 in the regular-season finale. The Cardinals went on to win their District games by a combined four points, the championship decider 58-55 over Indian River Inland Lakes, one of two teams with which Onaway shared the Ski Valley Conference title. The win over Mackinaw City was the Comets’ only loss over its last 12 games.

Traverse City West
Gaylord St. Mary (20-4) vs. Frankfort (15-8), Mesick (19-5) vs. Lake Leelanau St. Mary (19-3)

Gaylord St. Mary was the third team that shared the Ski Valley title with Onaway and Inland Lakes, and the Snowbirds have bounced way back from last season’s 10-13 finish. Frankfort has won six of its last seven games and has plenty of experience at this stage, having reached the Quarterfinals in 2021 and the Regional Semifinals last winter as well. Mesick has been making up for some unfinished business from last year when it suffered its only loss in a Division 3 District Final, and Lake Leelanau St. Mary is on a mission as well after reaching the Division 4 Semifinals a year ago. The Eagles have wins over Frankfort by 26 and Gaylord St. Mary by 12 this season.'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.

PHOTOS (Top) Kingsford's Gavin Grondin (23) goes up for a shot last week while defended by Negaunee's Brodin Bell (20). (Middle) Holt’s Isaiah Foster (4) finds a teammate during the Rams’ win Friday over Mason. (Top photo by Cara Kamps, middle photo by Click by Christine McCallister.)

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.)