Breslin Bound: 2023-24 Boys Report Week 12

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

February 19, 2024

This past week certainly earned its place in the greater narrative of the 2023-24 Michigan high school boys basketball season. We always say every team and every game has a story, and the weekend especially left us with a few we'll be talking about for a while. 

MI Student AidBut we also have so much to look forward to over this final week of the regular season, with plenty of local championship races finishing up and District pairings now posted – check all of those out on the Brackets page. 

“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. Detroit Cass Tech 72, Detroit Renaissance 70 This has been one of the most competitive elite matchups statewide this season, as Cass Tech (19-1) claimed the Detroit Public School League Tournament title by following up on its 88-85 double-overtime win over the Phoenix (15-5) from Jan. 12.

2. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 58, Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 55 The Eaglets (19-1) held on for a third win this season over Brother Rice (15-6) and this one for the Catholic High School League Bishop title. 

3. Saginaw Arthur Hill 84, Saginaw 52 An outside chance remains they could meet in a Division 2 Regional Semifinal, but for now Arthur Hill (14-4) ended this 114-year rivalry on top. 

4. Niles Brandywine 63, Benton Harbor 57 After losing their first meeting by 13, the Bobcats (17-3) handed Benton Harbor (20-1) its only loss to create a shared championship in the Lakeland Conference.

5. Laingsburg 72, Freeland 65 The Wolfpack (21-0) made the loudest statement of a season full of them in downing an expected Division 2 contender in Freeland (18-2). 

Detroit Cass Tech takes on Detroit Renaissance in the PSL Tournament final at Wayne State.

Watch List

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


Detroit Cass Tech (19-1) The reigning Division 1 champion hasn’t slowed down, clinching the PSL Blue and Tournament titles and showing an ability to win big or pull out close victories while seeing teams from all over the Lower Peninsula. The Technicians’ only loss was to Zeeland West (14-6) a month ago, but they’ve also piled up wins over Chelsea (14-5), Renaissance (15-5) twice, Detroit Martin Luther King (14-6), Southeastern (14-7) and Douglass (14-5), and Kalamazoo Central (10-7) among 11 wins total over opponents with double-digit wins. And now comes the biggest matchup of all – Saturday’s Operation Friendship matchup with Orchard Lake St. Mary’s. 

Marquette (18-3) The team can finish an outright Greater Northern Conference championship Thursday against second-place Kingsford and already have a 71-69 win over the Flivvers (16-3) and two over Menominee (15-5) among 13 victories total over opponents with 10 or more wins this winter. The three losses came in consecutive games over a 10-day stretch in December, and Marquette has avenged defeats to Negaunee and Ishpeming Westwood over the last three weeks, building a 15-game winning streak and surpassing last season’s total over 13 along the way. 


Grand Rapids Catholic Central (14-4) A 1-3 December may have turned out to be excellent prep for a 13-1 run over the last two months, as the Cougars have lost only to Lima (Ohio) in 2024 and earned 12 wins during this run by 12 points or more. The early losses came to Grand Rapids Northview (15-4), Grand Rapids Christian (18-2) and Davison (14-4), but GRCC opened the new year with a 57-54 win over South Christian (15-5) and can clinch the Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold title outright Tuesday against Ottawa Hills. The Cougars finished a regular-season sweep of the second-place Sailors on Feb. 2 and would see them again only if they met in a Division 2 Quarterfinal. 

Saginaw Arthur Hill (14-4) As noted above, this is Arthur Hill’s final season as it will consolidate with Saginaw High this summer. But the Lumberjacks are finishing things off memorably. They are tied for second in the Saginaw Valley League, a half-game back of Heritage after falling to the Hawks earlier this month. But they followed up that defeat with wins over Mount Pleasant and Saginaw High, to go with earlier notable victories over Frankenmuth (15-5) and Detroit Edison (11-7). Arthur Hill sees Bay City Central and Davison this week and has guaranteed its final season will be a winning one after going 10-14 a year ago. 


Napoleon (18-3) The Pirates tied with Michigan Center for the Cascades Conference East championship but then won the overall league title with a 63-41 win over West champ Hanover-Horton on Saturday. Napoleon did split its meetings with Michigan Center this season, losing 50-38 on Dec. 21 before winning the rematch 50-44 on Jan 25, but the only other defeats also came before the new year to Jackson (12-8) and Parma Western (15-5). The Pirates have won 13 straight, also defeating Hanover-Horton (14-8) at the start of January and Jonesville (15-6) along the way, and could see Michigan Center again if both reach next week’s District Final at East Jackson. 

North Muskegon (21-0) The Norsemen have gone from 10 to 15 to 19 top 21 wins over the last four seasons and have had to turn away only a few close challenges to remain undefeated with a game to play this regular season. North Muskegon defeated Montague 47-45 on Jan. 31 but have had only four more single-digit games. A 57-38 win over White Cloud (16-4) two weeks ago has been among highlights, and they’re lined up opposite each other at next week’s District at Hesperia. The Norseman also earned a notable 65-47 victory Jan. 30 over Muskegon Oakridge (14-6) and got a boost by downing Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (13-8) on Feb. 9, 62-54.


Hillman (18-2) The Tigers are another team undefeated in 2024, with 13 straight wins since falling to Division 2 Ogemaw Heights to finish their December slate. Hillman also lost early to Division 1 Gaylord, but has shined against schools closer in size and dominated in winning the North Star League Little Dipper championship and also downing eventual Big Dipper champ Alcona (16-5). The Tigers just missed making the Breslin Center a year ago, falling to Frankfort 59-57 in a Division 4 Quarterfinal, and will try to line up for another run finishing the regular season against Division 3 Oscoda (15-5) after defeating the Owls 57-56 in overtime in December. 

Norway (15-5) The Knights are two wins from potentially winning the Skyline Central Conference Large school division outright, which would be an especially notable accomplishment as reigning Division 4 champion Munising (16-4) trails by only half a game. Norway earned the advantage with a 49-48 win over the Mustangs in the season opener Nov. 28, and the two would meet again if they both win Regional titles. The Knights have only one loss to a Division 4 opponent, against Crystal Falls Forest Park (16-3) on Jan. 4, and the other defeats came twice to Division 2 Escanaba and once to Division 3 Iron Mountain (19-1) and Division 2 Kingsford (16-3).

Can’t-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Ann Arbor Huron (16-3) at Saline (16-4) – These two are tied for first in the Southeastern Conference White, and the winner claims the outright league title. Huron won the first meeting 65-52 on Jan. 26.

Tuesday – Mancelona (16-4) at Bellaire (17-3) – Bellaire is assured of a share of the Ski Valley Conference championship, but Mancelona could force a co-championship after losing the first meeting Jan. 16 by just a point, 50-49.

Thursday – Flint Powers Catholic (16-3) at Saginaw Heritage (15-3) – A Chargers win could create a four-way tie atop the Saginaw Valley League with one conference game to play, or Heritage could enter this matchup in line to lock up a share of the title if it also defeats Lapeer on Tuesday.

Friday – Dearborn (20-0) vs. Canton (17-3) at Northville – The champions of the Kensington Lakes Activities Association’s East and West, respectively, will meet for the overall league title.

Saturday – Detroit Cass Tech (19-1) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (19-1) at University of Detroit Mercy – The annual Operation Friendship matchup of PSL and CHSL champions also matches the reigning Division 1 champion and the top team in Division 1 MPR this winter, respectively.'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) Saginaw Arthur Hill and Saginaw High play for perhaps the final time in their 114-year rivalry Friday at Dow Event Center. (Middle) Detroit Cass Tech takes on Detroit Renaissance in the PSL Tournament final at Wayne State. (Top photo by Kolleth Photo; middle photo by Olivia B. Photography.)

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.)