Breslin Bound: 2022-23 Boys Report Week 1

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

December 12, 2022

Several of Michigan’s anticipated boys basketball contenders wasted no time last week opening with matchups against more of the best our state is expected to offer this winter.

MI Student AidAnd we’re wasting no time talking about it.

Below is our first installment of “Breslin Bound” for the 2022-23 boys season, and we’ll again highlight intriguing results and teams on the rise all the way through their season-ending trips to Breslin Center in March.

“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. Lake Leelanau St. Mary 63, Menominee 45 In a matchup of teams that finished last season at Breslin, 2022 Division 4 semifinalist St. Mary (3-0) got off to an impressive start against the reigning Division 3 runner-up Maroons (1-1).

2. Detroit U-D Jesuit 57, Ferndale 55 One of the most anticipated first-week games statewide saw Jesuit (2-0) trail nearly the entirety before a big fourth quarter pulled them just ahead of the Eagles (0-2).

3. Rockford 68, Grand Rapids Catholic Central 64 The Rams (2-0) edged the reigning Division 2 runner-up Cougars (0-1) at Calvin University.

4. North Farmington 49, Detroit Martin Luther King 36 Another highly-anticipated opener saw teams that combined for 37 wins last season face off with North Farmington (2-0) earning the early boost.

5. St. Ignace 79, Boyne City 74 (OT) The Saints (1-0) avenged last season’s 68-50 loss to Boyne City (1-1) with Jonny Ingalls scoring 36 points including 16 during overtime.  

Watch List

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


Dearborn Fordson (2-0) The Tractors more than reversed their 2020-21 record of 6-11 in improving to 15-6 last season, and they’re off to the right start again. They defeated Dearborn Edsel Ford by 23 and Allen Park by 24, and have a few more tests coming up as they prepare to take on Belleville, Dearborn and more in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East.

Petoskey (2-0) The Northmen are coming off a 17-8 finish that included a Regional Final appearance against eventual Division 1 runner-up Grand Blanc, and they’re off to a strong start winning their home invitational over the weekend. Petoskey defeated Brighton 74-66 on Friday and then Grand Ledge 70-68 in overtime to clinch the title.


Kingsford (2-0) The Flivvers improvement from 8-6 two seasons ago to 15-7 last winter was substantial, especially considering those seven losses came to just three teams. Three of the defeats were to Escanaba, but Kingsford took an early step in Great Northern Conference play this time with a 67-50 win over the Eskymos.

Ogemaw Heights (2-0) After starting 0-2 and then 2-4 last season, Ogemaw Heights rallied to finish 11-9. The Falcons have reversed that start so far this winter, starting with a 63-57 win over Sanford Meridian, which won 16 games last season.


International Academy of Flint (3-0) The Phoenix finished 8-11 last season, and after a week they’re nearly halfway toward equaling that success. What’s more, those first three victories over Genesee, New Haven Merritt Academy and Burton Atherton all came by at least 17 points.

Mason County Central (2-0) The Spartans are seeking their first winning season since 2017-18, and they improved four wins last season from the year before to 7-15. They remain on the right track, with a 25-point win over Manistee last week followed by a 51-44 victory over North Muskegon – which handed Mason County Central two of its defeats last winter.


Fowler (2-0) The Eagles were a solid 13-8 last season, but quickly made themselves a team to watch for potentially more this winter. They opened with a 39-36 win over Carson City-Crystal – 17-4 last winter – and followed with a 47-39 win over Dansville after splitting with the Aggies in 2021-22.

Pittsford (2-0) Last season’s 11-11 finish began with an 0-2 start, but Pittsford has reversed that to open this winter. Those losses came to Britton Deerfield and Athens, but last week the Wildcats edged Britton Deerfield 54-53 in overtime and then defeated Athens by 45.

Can’t-Miss Contests

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

Thursday – Hamtramck (2-1) at North Farmington (2-0) – These two both are expected to be among the Division 1 elite this winter, with the only first-week loss between them Hamtramck’s to King by two in double overtime.

Friday – Flint Carman-Ainsworth (1-1) at Warren De La Salle Collegiate (2-0) – The reigning Division 1 champion Pilots have loaded December with nonleague tests, and this might be one of the tougher ones. 

Friday – Rockford (2-0) at Muskegon (0-0) – These two reigning league champions combined for 39 wins last season before both ran into eventual Division 1 semifinalist Grand Rapids Northview.

Friday – Chesaning (3-0) at Ovid-Elsie (2-0) – The Marauders edged Chesaning by a game last season to win the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference, but then lost to Chesaning by a point in their District Semifinal.

Saturday – Saginaw (2-0) at Kalamazoo Central (1-0) – The Trojans finish a busy week at the Maroon Giants’ Don Jackson Invitational after also hosting Grand Blanc and facing Lansing Everett at Delta College.'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 Otsego opened with wins last week over Portage Central and Niles. (Photo by Gary Shook.)

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.)