Breslin Bound: 2022-23 Boys Report Post-Break

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

January 10, 2023

“Showcase Season” gave fans plenty to watch over the holiday break, and plenty to help us look forward to these next two months as we push through the midwinter grind of another boys basketball season.

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More than 200 games were played from Dec. 26-30 alone in events on both sides of Mackinac Bridge, and we glance at some of those below and preview some of what to watch as calendar year 2023 gets further underway.  

“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. Grand Rapids Catholic Central 65, Warren De La Salle Collegiate 55 After opening the season with three defeats, including the third detailed below, reigning Division 2 runner-up GRCC (3-3) earned the most notable victory of the Motor City Roundball Classic over reigning Division 1 champion De La Salle (6-2).

2. Port Huron Northern 70, Hamtramck 69 The Huskies (6-0) followed up a three-point win over Ann Arbor Skyline two days earlier at the Motor City with this strong statement at the North Farmington Holiday Extravaganza.

3. Warren De La Salle Collegiate 38, Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 34 In a Detroit Catholic League Central where all five teams have realistic MHSAA championship possibilities, every win counts even more – and in this one the Pilots handed Brother Rice (8-1) its lone defeat.

4. Detroit Cass Tech 59, Grand Rapids Northview 42 The Technicians (8-0) dealt the lone loss of the season to Northview (6-1), a Division 1 semifinalist last winter, at the Motor City.

5. Muskegon 81, Grand Rapids Catholic Central 79 (OT) The also-undefeated Big Reds (5-0) had their closest call of the early season with this nail-biter at the Hall of Fame Classic at Reeths-Puffer.

Watch List

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


Detroit Cass Tech (8-0) After coming up just a two-point loss short of making the Division 1 Semifinals last season, the Technicians have completed a second-straight undefeated December. The win over Northview (see above) was of course noteworthy, but also one of seven double-digit victories so far. Also among the early notables was an 81-50 win over Saginaw Heritage at the PSL Holiday Classic. Circle Jan 20, when Cass faces Martin Luther King in a rematch of last season’s runner-up and champion, respectively, from the Public School League Blue.

Grand Haven (7-0) The Buccaneers surged to 18-4 last season and could be in the midst of climbing another step. They finished second in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red, after splitting with eventual champion Rockford, and won the first meeting with the Rams this winter 59-53 on Friday. A 20-point victory over Dearborn is becoming a nice bonus with Dearborn’s continued success, and Grand Haven also swept its Lakeshore Cup Tournament with what remain the only losses this season for Petoskey and Traverse City St. Francis.


Boyne City (6-1) A season-opening overtime loss to St. Ignace didn’t knock Boyne City off track, as the Ramblers have been undefeated the rest of the way with arguably their most impressive victories back-to-back over Marquette and Negaunee to finish December. Boyne City also avenged its District loss to Sault Ste. Marie with a 16-point victory and downed Elk Rapids 60-57 after falling twice to the Elks during 2021-22 when the Ramblers placed third and Elk Rapids second to Traverse City St. Francis in the Lake Michigan Conference.

Corunna (6-1) The Cavaliers are making last season’s 9-12 finish a distant memory quicky, with their only loss so far to still-undefeated Laingsburg and four wins over teams sitting .500 or better. Along the way Corunna already has avenged two last-season losses to Lake Fenton and another against Detroit University Prep Art & Design. Undefeated Goodrich tonight should provide another helpful measuring stick.


Laingsburg (8-0) The Wolfpack are almost always solid and appear to be moving back toward spectacular with this start. In addition to the win over Corunna (see above), Laingsburg has won its first three league games including by 18 over last year’s Central Michigan Athletic Conference champion Pewamo-Westphalia. That and the 18-point Corunna win are the Wolfpack’s closest victories through the season’s first third.

St. Ignace (6-1) The Saints started out with a special win, 79-74 over Boyne City in overtime, and Monday’s 67-65 loss to Division 2 Gaylord was the first obstacle they’ve met this winter. A 65-60 win over Rudyard remains that opponent’s only loss, and St. Ignace also traveled down for the Motor City Roundball Classic to defeat Center Line 56-51. The Saints are looking to catch Rudyard in the Straits Area Conference after finishing runner-up to the Bulldogs a year ago.


Lake Leelanau St. Mary (8-0) The Eagles followed a Regional Finals run in 2021 with a Semifinals run last season, and they’re rolling again with no win closer than 13 points this winter. St. Mary won the Will Lynch Invitational at Benzie Central, defeating reigning Division 3 runner-up Menominee 63-45 in a semifinal. The Eagles do not play in a league, but their schedule the rest of the way includes several strong small-school teams.

Munising (9-0) The Mustangs haven’t lost more than three games in a season over the last three, and could be headed toward running that streak to four seasons with only one single-digit game so far this winter – a 56-50 win over Ishpeming. Munising’s only losses last season were twice to Powers North Central and once to Rudyard; the Mustangs see Rudyard on Feb. 8 and North Central twice that month.

Can’t-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Flint Beecher (6-0) at Flint Hamady (6-0) – In the first of two regular-season matchups this season, Hamady will attempt to end Beecher’s nine-game winning streak in the series.

Thursday – Petoskey (7-1) at Cadillac (6-0) – Early returns in the Big North Conference make these two the likely favorites after Cadillac shared the title and Petoskey tied for third last season.

Thursday – Grand Ledge (5-1) at Okemos (8-0) – In what’s shaping up to be a deep Capital Area Activities Conference Blue, these two are shaping up as top contenders.

Saturday – Benton Harbor (5-1) vs. North Farmington (6-1) at Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills – This may be the premier matchup of the annual MLK Day Hoops Classic.

Saturday – Warren Michigan Collegiate (5-1) vs. Detroit Renaissance (7-3) at Ferndale – This matchup should conclude the Horatio Williams Foundation MLK Freedom Classic in a big way.'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 Grand Blanc and East Lansing face off during Saturday's Carmody Classic, with the host Bobcats victorious 65-61. (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.)