Breslin Bound: 2023-24 Boys Regional Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 5, 2024

As the saying goes, at this point in the tournament every team still playing has accomplished something – in this case, winning at least a District championship. 

MI Student AidAnd the path is much shorter for the 128 remaining contenders hoping to find their way to East Lansing in two weeks. 

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. Menominee 51, Iron Mountain 49 These two have seemed on a Division 3 District Final collision course since Menominee (18-6) won their first matchup 60-58 in overtime on Feb. 5, and Iron Mountain (22-2) ended its season with its only losses to the Maroons.

2. River Rouge 59, Dearborn 58 The Panthers (14-10) clinched a Division 1 District title by handing Dearborn (23-1) its only defeat.

3. Saginaw Arthur Hill 53, Freeland 47 The Lumberjacks (17-5) earned one more matchup with rival Saginaw High in this week’s Regional by downing a Falcons team (20-4) that has been in the Division 2 conversation all season.

4. Detroit Cass Tech 61, Detroit Martin Luther King 59 (OT) This Division 1 District Final finished a season series that saw the Technicians win both matchups in overtime, the first by five points.

5. Cass City 51, Harbor Beach 48 The Red Hawks (23-1) clinched their Division 3 District title by avenging their lone loss, 56-43 to Harbor Beach (20-4) on Feb. 9.

Regionals at a Glance

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


Detroit Renaissance
North Farmington (19-2) vs. Birmingham Groves (13-11)
Detroit U-D Jesuit (18-5) vs. Warren De La Salle Collegiate (15-7)

A Catholic High School League Central team has reached the Division 1/Class A Semifinals five straight seasons (not counting COVID-canceled 2020), and while Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (playing at Milford this week) is the favorite to do that, the regular-season champion has not always ended up the last team playing. De La Salle and Jesuit split during the regular season, Jesuit winning the first time 64-55 and De La Salle the rematch 57-56. On the other side, North Farmington shared the Oakland Activities Association Red title and Groves finished fifth, the Raiders winning their matchups 65-42 and 57-49. North Farmington finished the regular season with the third-highest Division 1 MPR.

Cadillac (19-5) vs. Traverse City West (22-2)
Saginaw Heritage (20-3) vs. Muskegon (21-2)

Coming off two straight trips to the Division 2 Quarterfinals, Cadillac has been even better this season while now in Division 1. The Vikings’ only losses were to Whitehall and Wayne Memorial, and they won the Big North Conference outright thanks in part to 55-44 and 58-44 wins over second-place West. On the other side of the bracket might be one of the most anticipated matchups this week. Heritage won the Saginaw Valley League title as one of eight league teams with at least 13 wins heading into this week, and the Hawks are 14-1 over their last 15 games. Muskegon is the reigning Division 1 runner-up, shared the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green title and has a 10-game winning streak.

Ypsilanti Lincoln (18-6) vs. Wayne Memorial (17-6)
Ann Arbor Huron (19-4) vs. Detroit Catholic Central (15-8)

Lincoln may have cooled off a bit after a 12-2 start, but the Railsplitters have heated up again and defeated Southeastern Conference Red champion Saline 62-57 in last week’s District Final. Lincoln also owns a Dec. 16 win over Wayne, 56-47, although the Zebras also have been surging with 10 wins over their last 12 games. Huron tied for second in the SEC Red but owns a sweep of Lincoln and edged rival Ann Arbor Pioneer 59-57 last week to get here. The favorite might still be DCC, which finished 10th in statewide Division 1 MPR while tying for fifth in the CHSL Central. All but one of the Shamrocks’ losses came in league play, with the first to Dearborn, which finished 23-1.


Saginaw (15-9) vs. Saginaw Arthur Hill (17-5)
Shepherd (15-9) vs. Flint Powers Catholic (19-5)

Although the end of Saginaw and Arthur Hill’s 114-year rivalry was commemorated with their final regular-season matchup Feb. 16, there was always the anticipation they could meet one more time in the postseason. They’ll do so to open tonight’s Regional, with Arthur Hill having won that first matchup 84-52 but that potentially not indicating much as these rivals rev up for one last meeting. Arthur Hill was third in the SVL and Powers and Saginaw tied for fifth, with the Chargers defeating Arthur Hill 72-67 and falling to Saginaw High 66-56. Shepherd will do its best to break up the SVL reunion coming off two wins over Tri-Valley Conference teams in last week’s District.

Flat Rock
Detroit University Prep (15-8) vs. Romulus Summit Academy North (22-2)
Dundee (20-4) vs. Dearborn Heights Robichaud (19-4)

Summit is playing in a Regional for the fourth-straight season and seeking to advance to the final week for the third time during this run, this time with its losses by a combined four points to Riverview Gabriel Richard (20-3) and Detroit Old Redford (17-7). The Dragons won the Charter School Conference Gold championship thanks to an 85-58 win over runner-up University Prep on Jan. 22, but UPA has seen several more of the state’s top teams and defeated River Rouge among its best victories. Dundee opened this season 14-1 and is on a five-game winning streak that included claiming a second-straight District title. The Vikings are running into a Robichaud team that’s won nine straight games and the outright Western Wayne Athletic Conference title and is making its third-straight Regional appearance.

Benton Harbor (23-1) vs. Paw Paw (12-13)
Grand Rapids Christian (22-2) vs. Holland Christian (15-9)

Benton Harbor entered the postseason with the highest MPR in Division 2 and continued to back it up last week with a 60-42 win over Stevensville Lakeshore (13-10) and 58-48 clincher over Niles (19-6). Paw Paw has won five of its last six and will try to add to its upset last week of South Haven (15-7). Grand Rapids Christian was No. 4 in Division 2 MPR entering the postseason and defeated Grand Rapids South Christian (19-6) narrowly last week, 52-49, to advance. It would be easy to anticipate an Eagles/Tigers matchup in the Regional Final, but GRC surely isn’t looking past Holland Christian, which has won seven of its last eight games.

A pair of Holly defenders defend during their Division 1 District Final win over Davison.


Houghton Lake
Ithaca (16-8) vs. McBain (22-2)
Sanford Meridian (20-4) vs. Beal City (20-4)

Three 20-win teams at this Regional quickly grab the attention, and Ithaca like Beal City was a league runner-up this winter. McBain was first and the Aggies second in the Highland Conference, with McBain winning their matchups 60-43 and 72-48. Meridian was the champion of the Jack Pine Conference and didn’t see any of these three teams this season but has only one Division 3 loss, to Pewamo-Westphalia (22-2). Beal City and Ithaca did meet early, with the Aggies winning 74-68 on Dec. 19. The Meridian/Beal City matchup is a rematch of a 2023 District Final, won by the Mustangs 43-40.

Jackson Lumen Christi
Hanover-Horton (16-8) vs. Jackson Lumen Christi (20-4)
Chesaning (24-0) vs. Laingsburg (24-0)

All four of these teams were league champions, but the Tuesday headliner surely is the meeting of undefeated contenders. Chesaning is coming off its first District title in decades, and Laingsburg is seeking its second-straight Regional championship and is a combined 49-1 over its last 50 games. A pair of victories over P-W and a 72-65 edging of Freeland (20-4) remain the defining wins for the Wolfpack, while Chesaning has downed Saginaw Nouvel (19-5) and Durand (19-5) twice among others. Lumen Christi continues to build on its best season since at least 2014-15, with three of its four losses to teams that have won at least 20 games. Hanover-Horton also has made a nice jump returning to Regionals after missing the last two seasons while hovering near .500.

Union City (16-9) vs. Niles Brandywine (21-3)
Schoolcraft (21-3) vs. Watervliet (19-5)

Brandywine joins Benton Harbor (see above) in giving the five-team Lakeland Conference statewide contenders in both Divisions 2 and 3. The Bobcats reached the Semifinals a year ago and have a 64-53 win over Watervliet from Jan. 24. Watervliet and Schoolcraft were the outright champions in the Southwestern Athletic Conference – Schoolcraft in the Valley and Watervliet in the Lakeshore – and Schoolcraft won their Jan. 9 matchup 67-35. Union City finished fourth in the Big 8 Conference but has emerged with eight wins over its last 10 games as it continues to build up its first winning season since 2018-19.


Buckley (15-9) vs. Maple City Glen Lake (20-4)
Hillman (22-2) vs. Bellaire (20-4)

Hillman and Bellaire are both league champions, and Hillman has significant recent experience at this level making its third-straight Regional appearance and after reaching the Quarterfinals a year ago. The Tigers remain undefeated this calendar year, while Bellaire has been close winning 16 of its last 18 with the lone losses during that time by a combined three points both to Mancelona. On the other side are a pair of teams familiar with each other, as Glen Lake was second in the Northwest Conference and Buckley finished fourth. The Lakers won their matchups 55-36 and 68-48.

Petersburg Summerfield
Brighton Livingston Christian (18-5) vs. Detroit Douglass (19-5)
Britton Deerfield (18-6) vs. Allen Park Inter-City Baptist (20-4)

Douglass won the Detroit Public School League Gold on the way to its third District title over the last four seasons, and the Hurricanes have won 12 of their last 13 games with all of their defeats this season to Division 1 or 2 opponents. Livingston Christian has plenty to be glad about as well enjoying its first winning season since 2019-20 and with eight wins over its last nine games. On the other side are a pair coming off major District Final accomplishments. Deerfield was fourth in the Tri-County Conference but defeated league champion Adrian Lenawee Christian 63-59 after losing their matchup a month earlier by 50. Inter-City Baptist has won seven in a row and downed Taylor Trillium (22-2) in their District Final, 60-49.

Sault Ste. Marie (Regional Final only)
Munising (19-4) vs. Rudyard (18-6) at Manistique
St. Ignace (18-6) vs. Onaway (19-5) at Indian River Inland Lakes

The reigning Division 4 champion Mustangs have won 15 of their last 16 games with a 68-58 victory over Rudyard on Jan. 19 adding intrigue to tonight’s rematch. The Bulldogs have won 11 of 13 games since, a run that included a 73-72 victory over St. Ignace that completed a regular-season split as those two finished third and second, respectively, in the Straits Area Conference. Since navigating a rough patch of four losses over five games as January turned to February, the Saints have won six straight all by at least 20 points as they look to return to the Quarterfinals for the second-straight season. Onaway will be the first to try and stop them, entering with 10 wins over its last 11 games and the loss during that streak to Bellaire (see above).'s weekly “Breslin Bound” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a division within the Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP). 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 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) Muskegon finishes a season sweep of Mona Shores with a 61-29 Division 1 District Final win. (Middle) A pair of Holly defenders defend during their Division 1 District Semifinal win over Davison. (Top photo by Tim Reilly; middle 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.)