Breslin Bound: 2023-24 Boys Report Week 10

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

February 5, 2024

Maybe it’s driven by the warmer-than-usual winter across the state, but more than a few people have brought up lately that this boys basketball season has seemed to fly by.

MI Student Aid

And it’s about to speed up even more, relatively speaking.

Three weeks remain of this regular season. Four leagues have begun or this week will start their tournaments, teams are clinching championships in other conferences all over Michigan, and two weeks from today first-round MHSAA brackets will be set.

Speaking of, be sure to keep an eye on Michigan Power Ratings as those District seeds are worked out over the next 13 days – and check out the MPR FAQ page for explanations of all things brackets, as the seeding process actually begins Sunday with the release of this season’s bracket formula.

“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 56, East Lansing 37 The Eaglets (15-1) finished a week that saw them also defeat Detroit Catholic Central and Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice by downing the Trojans (14-2) at the 2K24 Showcase at Aquinas College in a matchup of teams currently ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in Division 1 MPR.

2. East Kentwood 70, Warren Lincoln 43 After falling in Saturday showcase games the last two weekends, East Kentwood (10-5) made a loud statement in this one also at the 2K24 Showcase against a Warren Lincoln team (13-3) expected to contend in Division 2.

3. Muskegon Reeths-Puffer 63, Muskegon 45 The Rockets (14-1) moved into first place alone in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green, handing Muskegon (11-2) its first defeat of the season and first at home in nearly two years.

4. Ann Arbor Huron 72, Grand Rapids Northview 71 The River Rats (13-2) ran their winning streak to seven with one of their best this season, sending Northview to 12-2 in another matchup of top-seven Division 1 MPR teams at the 2K24 event.

5. Grand Rapids Christian 60, Muskegon 51 As noted in last week’s report, the 2K24 Showcase was loaded, and the Eagles (14-1) sit atop Division 2 MPR after this win over the Big Reds at Aquinas.

Painesdale-Jeffers' Matthew Shutz (21) brings the ball up the court during his team’s game with Ishpeming this season.

Watch List

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


Cadillac (14-1) The Vikings’ lone loss was 58-56 to still-undefeated Whitehall on Jan. 23, and they’ve bounced back with wins over Dearborn Fordson, Ludington and Traverse City West. The 58-44 victory over the second-place Titans moved Cadillac within one more win of clinching a share of the Big North Conference championship after sharing it with Traverse City Central last season. The Vikings finished 22-5 overall a year ago and have avenged 2022-23 losses to Mount Pleasant, Central and Petoskey. Wayne Memorial (10-4), Reed City (15-2) and Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (15-1) are among interesting tests remaining.

Port Huron Northern (14-3) The Huskies are waiting on the result of tonight’s Warren Lincoln/New Haven matchup to find out if they’ll tie Lincoln for the Macomb Area Conference White title or finish second. But aside from last week’s upset loss to Romeo, Northern’s only other defeats were to Lincoln in their first of two meetings (winning the second 59-57) and to still-undefeated Utica in its season opener. The Huskies have built on last season’s 20-4 finish with nine wins total against teams with double-digit victories, and bounced back from the Romeo loss with a 62-36 rebound against St. Clair (13-5). A Dec. 28 win over Saginaw, 67-64, also is among highlights.  


Adrian (12-2) The Maples have been solid the last two seasons with 13 wins last winter and 15 the season before. But they’ve taken a major step and could add significantly to it against Chelsea on Tuesday in a matchup that could eventually lead to a shared Southeastern Conference White title between the two. Adrian lost the Jan. 19 meeting with the Bulldogs 97-87, but otherwise have fallen only to Parma Western (12-4) on Dec. 5. Adrian bounced back from that first loss by defeating Mason (15-2), and head into this rematch coming off a 65-43 victory over Tecumseh (12-3).

Chelsea (10-5) As noted, Chelsea sees Adrian again Tuesday with league championship implications, but also had a win over Tecumseh 61-48 last week. The Bulldogs have won six straight, starting with a 59-57 edging of Saline (12-3) on Jan. 16. Chelsea was 4-5 heading into that game, but has seen several of the state’s best with those losses to Division 1 Ann Arbor Huron (13-2), Saginaw Heritage (11-2), Detroit Cass Tech (14-1), Detroit U-D Jesuit (13-4) and Ypsilanti Lincoln (12-3). The Bulldogs also won their matchup with Parma Western, 56-40.


Chesaning (15-0) After finishing 17-6 both of the last two seasons, Chesaning has nearly equaled that win total during this perfect run and sits alone atop the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference standings after sharing last year’s title with Ovid-Elsie and Durand. Chesaning has swept the Railroaders this regular season and won the first meeting with Ovid-Elise 43-38 in double overtime, with the rematch ending the regular season Feb. 23. A 55-50 season-opening win over Lake Fenton (12-5) has been a good indicator for this winter, and matchups with Saginaw Nouvel (12-3) on Feb. 20 and then O-E could be just as telling about the playoffs.

Painesdale Jeffers (16-1) The Copper Mountain Conference overall championship could be on the line Tuesday when Jeffers travels to Lake Linden-Hubbell (14-2), as they are the only teams undefeated in league play. Jeffers won all three of their meetings last season including in the District Final as the Jets finished 25-2 and reached the Division 4 Quarterfinals. The only loss this winter was 75-72 to Ishpeming on Dec. 27, and Jeffers could see the Hematites again in District play. The Jets have a chance to avenge their other 2022-23 defeat Feb. 16 when they go to Escanaba.


Bellaire (12-3) The Eagles are 8-1 since the calendar turned to 2024, their only loss of that streak Jan. 16 to Mancelona 50-49. That’s left Bellaire and Mancelona tied for first in the Ski Valley Conference, with the rematch Feb. 20 at Bellaire. The Ski Valley has five teams with 10 or more wins, and Bellaire is a combined 5-0 against the other three, with the Eagles’ only other defeats at the Reed City holiday tournament to the host Coyotes (15-2) and Fremont. Next week’s matchup with Division 3 Charlevoix (13-3) should also provide some notable prep for the postseason.

Maple City Glen Lake (11-3) A 60-51 loss to Benzie Central two weeks ago put the Lakers a game back in the Northwest Conference standings as they seek a repeat championship. But those two see each other again Feb. 16 at Benzie, and Glen Lake could bring in some momentum from facing Traverse City St. Francis six days earlier – the Gladiators ended the Lakers’ season a year ago. Glen Lake’s only other defeats this winter were to Charlevoix during the first week and 81-80 in double overtime to Harbor Springs also during the first half of December. Last week’s opponents, Buckley and Frankfort, both have 10 wins this season, and the Lakers won 68-48 and 57-30, respectively.

Can’t-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – West Bloomfield (11-5) at North Farmington (14-1) – North Farmington can clinch a share of the Oakland Activities Association Red championship, or West Bloomfield could join the Raiders as the only teams with just one league loss after North Farmington won the first round 61-46.

Friday – Grand Rapids Northview (12-2) at Grand Rapids Christian (14-1) – These two are tied atop the O-K Conference White with 7-0 league records after their Jan. 12 game was postponed to Feb. 14.

Friday – Muskegon (11-2) at Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (14-1) – With their first meeting this season also originally scheduled for Jan. 12 but played Jan. 30, this will be a quick turnaround for the rematch and likely O-K Green decider.

Friday – Pickford (13-1) at Rudyard (11-4) – The Pirates are in first in the Eastern Upper Peninsula Conference by a game ahead of Rudyard after winning their first meeting 70-48.

Saturday – Saginaw (11-4) at Davison (10-3) – This Cardinal Classic game matches up the Saginaw Valley League-leading Trojans and second-place Cardinals, with Saginaw winning their SVL matchup 78-70 on Dec. 7.'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) Grand Ledge and DeWitt players meet in the lane during the Panthers’ 52-35 win Friday. (Middle) Painesdale-Jeffers' Matthew Shutz (21) brings the ball up the court during his team’s game with Ishpeming this season. (Top photo by Terry Lyons; middle photo by Cara Kamps.)

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.)