Breslin Bound: 2022-23 Boys Report Week 8

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

January 30, 2023

There were so many games of note in Michigan high school boys basketball last week, the original list was 15 strong before we ended up highlighting the five under “Week in Review” below.

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But here’s a quick glance at more:

In something of stunners, Ishpeming Westwood and Adrian Lenawee Christian handed Iron Mountain and Lake Leelanau St. Mary, respectively, their first losses, while Flint Carman-Ainsworth gave Detroit Loyola its first defeat and Kalamazoo Central delivered the same to Mattawan.

Grand Rapids Catholic Central downed South Christian, and Northview got past Grand Rapids Christian to establish leads in Ottawa-Kent Conference divisions, while Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice took the same step ahead in the Detroit Catholic League Central against U-D Jesuit. We highlight Wyoming Tri-unity Christian’s win over Schoolcraft below, but Potter’s House Christian may have shaken up the Alliance League by edging the Defenders three days later.

“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. Ann Arbor Huron 53, Port Huron Northern 50 This matchup of undefeated teams highlighted the Fast Break Invitational at Belleville, with Huron (11-0) earning its third three-point win of the season in sending Northern to 12-1.

2. Detroit Cass Tech 69, Flint Beecher 63 The Technicians (15-0) closed their Downtown Throw Down with the night’s premier matchup; the Bucs fell to 11-3, but all three of Beecher’s losses have come against elite larger opponents during showcase events.  

3. Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 51, Schoolcraft 46 Last season’s Division 4 champion Tri-unity (9-3) edged the reigning Division 3 title-winning Eagles (9-5).

4. Hudsonville 54, East Kentwood 45 The Eagles (10-4) have bounced back from an early deficit in the O-K Red standings to join a first-place tie with the Falcons (9-4) and Rockford.

5. Boyne City 50, Traverse City St. Francis 44 The Ramblers (12-1) broke an 11-game losing streak against the Gladiators (9-2) as the two met with first on the line in the Lake Michigan Conference.

Marshall defenders wall off an Otsego player driving to the basket during a 52-43 win Jan. 6.

Watch List

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


Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (13-1) The Warriors and U-D Jesuit have risen to the top of another loaded CHSL Central, and Brother Rice’s 68-53 win over the Cubs made it the team to chase the rest of the way. The Warriors followed up with a 55-46 win over Warren De La Salle Collegiate avenging its lone loss of this winter from Jan. 6. Warren Lincoln, Grand Blanc, River Rouge and Kalamazoo Central all have double digit wins this season, but fell to Brother Rice – all but Warren Lincoln by double digits.

Grand Blanc (11-2) The Bobcats also fill their schedule with the state’s elite most weekends, and this one included a 53-50 win over O-K Red co-leader Rockford at the 2K23 Showcase at Aquinas College. Add that to impressive victories over Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Flint Carman-Ainsworth and Saginaw among others – plus impressive defeats to Brother Rice (see above) and North Farmington (10-1). Grand Blanc and Davison are the only teams without a loss in Saginaw Valley League play, and they meet Friday.


Benton Harbor (11-2) Subtract their losses to the Tigers, and all but one of Benton Harbor’s opponents so far would be .500 or better as that program also lines up top competition all winter long. Benton Harbor’s defeats came to North Farmington (10-1) and Grand Rapids Union (9-3), while the Tigers handed the lone losses this season to Watervliet and Niles Brandywine and earned perhaps their best victory 64-62 over Beecher two weekends ago. Benton Harbor also leads the first-year Lakeland Conference with the rematch against second-place Brandywine on Feb. 17.

Ludington (13-0) The Orioles have averaged nearly 15 wins per season over the last five, so they’re no strangers to success. But they’ve nearly reached that win total already this winter with only a couple of nail-biters. Ludington is coming off a 76-74 overtime win over Traverse City Central, but nine victories have been by double digits including a 63-52 defeat of Whitehall (10-4) that has the Orioles alone atop their new West Michigan Conference Lakes standings.


Saginaw Nouvel (12-3) Few teams with multiple losses have been closer to perfection, as Nouvel’s three defeats were by a combined six points to opponents that are a combined 29-9. Nouvel also has its share of impressive wins, with its latest five-game streak including an 11-pointer over 13-win Chesaning and Saturday’s 77-75 overtime edging of 12-win Bridgeport. The Panthers have a one-game lead on Ithaca in the Tri-Valley Conference 10-2, with that rematch Feb. 24 – but in the meantime, keep an eye out for the Feb. 14 meeting with undefeated Standish-Sterling.

Watervliet (10-1) Aside from that 71-68 loss to Benton Harbor (see above), Watervliet has been almost unstoppable with only Buchanan (one point) and Bridgman (six) coming within single digits of catching the Panthers. They lead the Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore by two games after sharing the title and finishing 19-4 overall last season. The next four games should say a lot as all four opponents have nine wins this season, including reigning Division 3 champion Schoolcraft.


Gaylord St. Mary (12-1) The Snowbirds have won 12 straight since opening with a loss to Hillman, and including a 72-71 overtime victory over Indian River Inland Lakes on Friday. St. Mary also has a 19-point win over Ellsworth and a 15-pointer over Onaway, and both those opponents have reached 10 wins this season. The Onaway win from Jan. 10 has St. Mary atop the Ski Valley Conference standings, with their second meeting Feb. 15 – and before that a nonleague matchup with Lake Leelanau St. Mary (11-1) coming up this Friday.

Hillman (10-1) That 61-40 win over Gaylord St. Mary kicked off a great first half for the Tigers, who are a 57-54 overtime loss to Division 1 Alpena from perfection. It’s been a strong follow-up after last season’s only loss was to Nouvel in a Regional Semifinal. Only Alcona and Ogemaw Heights have come within single digits of catching the Tigers this winter. Hillman has a one-game lead on Posen in the North Star League Little Dipper thanks to a 62-47 victory Jan. 5 – with the rematch Tuesday.

Can’t-Miss Contests

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

Monday – Powers North Central (9-1) at Iron Mountain (10-1) – Both are coming off their lone defeats this season, but this still features two of the strongest Division 4 and 3 contenders, respectively, in the Upper Peninsula.

Wednesday – Cass City (11-1) at Bad Axe (11-1) – Bad Axe won the first meeting 50-41 on Jan. 6, but winner in this one could take all eventually in the Greater Thumb Conference West as they sit tied atop the standings.

Saturday – North Farmington (10-1) vs. Muskegon (12-0) at Aquinas College – The 2K23 Showcase continues with a pair of contenders in Division 1 topping the ticket with a 5:15 p.m. tipoff.

Saturday – Benton Harbor (11-2) vs. Ann Arbor Huron (11-0) at Aquinas College – These two definitely could take some of the spotlight at Aquinas kicking things off at noon.

Saturday – Grand Blanc (11-2) vs. Cadillac (11-1) at Traverse City St. Francis – The Northern Michigan Showcase has some intriguing matchups as well, and Cadillac could make a major statement for the Big North Conference in arguably the event’s headliner.'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) Davison’s Teon Armstrong (2) pushes the pace against Flint Carman-Ainsworth during an 85-70 win Jan. 24. (Middle) Marshall defenders wall off an Otsego player driving to the basket during a 52-43 win Jan. 6. (Top photo by Terry Lyons; middle 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.)