Breslin Bound: 2023-24 Boys Report Week 2

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

December 11, 2023

We're always on the lookout, especially at the start of a season, for teams on the rise – maybe they are bouncing back from a tough run last year or continuing to build on recent success and attempting to take the next step.

MI Student AidWe spotted a few more as we looked back on the second week of this boys basketball season, and others are sure to emerge as we continue looking forward to more early-season big-time matchups and the showcase events that fill the December calendar.

“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. Grand Ledge 64, Saginaw 55 The Comets are off to a 4-1 start, and this win over Saginaw (3-1) – a Division 2 semifinalist last season – was the headliner from the Moneyball Classic at Holt.

2. Grand Rapids Northview 70, Grand Rapids Catholic Central 67 Northview (2-0) reaffirmed its spot among teams to watch in West Michigan with this early win over the Cougars (1-1) at The Invite at Calvin University.

3. Detroit Cass Tech 58, Holt 51 The host Rams gave the reigning Division 1 champion Technicians one of their closer regular-season games of the last two seasons at the Moneyball Classic, but Cass Tech hung on to move to 30-1 since the start of 2022-23.

4. Ferndale 60, River Rouge 57 Since losing its opener last week to Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, Ferndale (2-1) has downed Davison by eight and handed River Rouge (2-1) this first loss of the season.

5. Grandville 59, Hudsonville Unity Christian 56 Grandville (2-0) may not be known as much for boys basketball, but could be soon. Defeating a Division 2 quarterfinalist from last season in Unity (3-2) at The Invite certainly deserves some attention.

Goodrich and Clio face off Friday, with the Martians going on to a 71-34 victory.

Watch List

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


Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (2-0) The Rockets have improved from nine to 13 to 15 wins over the last three seasons, respectively, and a 38-34 victory over Grand Haven on Friday avenged one of the 10 losses from last winter. Reeths-Puffer previously opened with a 74-67 victory over Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, still FHC’s lone loss.

Saline (3-0) Sophomore Jonathan Sanderson has opened this season scoring 40, 30 and 51 points, the 51 to lead Saline past Canton 74-72 in overtime last week. The Hornets were a solid 16-7 last season and tied with two others for second in the Southeastern Conference Red, but might be on the verge of more.


Freeland (4-0) The Falcons are the lone team to hand Grand Ledge a loss (see above), doing so to win the Petoskey Invitational before taking a major early step in the Tri-Valley Conference Red on Friday with a 54-49 win over rival Frankenmuth. After reaching the Division 2 Semifinals in 2022, Freeland finished 17-7 last season.

Grand Rapids Christian (3-0) A 60-50 win over Hudsonville on Saturday as part of The Invite at Calvin University topped off a nice run of three victories over five days for Grand Rapids Christian. The Eagles also defeated Wyoming 58-53 and Grand Rapids South Christian 58-48 as they work to build on last season’s 20-6 finish.


Laingsburg (3-0) The Wolfpack finished 25-1 last season, its only loss in a Division 3 Quarterfinal as Daniel Morrill finished his run as coach. New leader Tim Beebe has Laingsburg continuing to roll, with a 59-55 overtime win over Pewamo-Westphalia on Wednesday especially notable as P-W had won the last four Central Michigan Athletic Conference titles before the Wolfpack prevailed last winter.  

McBain (3-0) After a rare down season in 2021-22, the Ramblers bounced back to go 20-6 last winter and have already avenged one of those defeats with a 63-56 win over Boyne City last week; Boyne also won 20 games last season. McBain opened Highland Conference play with an 80-49 victory over Manton as it looks to repeat as league champion.


Britton Deerfield (4-0) The Patriots have shown they can win the close ones already this winter, with Friday’s 42-41 win over Petersburg Summerfield adding to a 60-58 edging of Adrian Madison during opening week. The Summerfield win avenged last winter’s season-ending District loss to the Bulldogs as Britton Deerfield finished 9-14. B-D also has wins over Pittsford and Concord, both avenging close losses from last December.

Fruitport Calvary Christian (4-0) The Eagles earned three wins last week, perhaps most notably their 62-57 victory over Fruitport High that was reportedly the program’s first over their neighbor and avenged a 73-36 loss from opening night a year ago. Calvary also has early wins over Holton, Grand Rapids Sacred Heart and Kent City after finishing 14-10 in 2022-23.

Can’t-Miss Contests

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

Friday – Detroit U-D Jesuit (3-0) at Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (5-0) – The matchup is circled every season. Brother Rice won all three last winter to clinch the Catholic League Central title, with Jesuit placing second.

Friday – Iron Mountain (3-0) at Norway (3-0) – The Knights have handed reigning Division 4 champion Munising its first loss this season and will attempt to do the same for a Mountaineers team that finished 21-2 last winter.

Saturday – East Kentwood (1-1) at Saginaw (3-1) – Michael Thomas brought East Kentwood an 18-7 record in his first season as coach last winter, and this should tell some more about how much the Falcons are progressing.

Saturday – Zeeland West (2-0) vs. North Farmington (2-0) at Northville – After improving to 17 wins last season, Zeeland West has lined up an early-season matchup with one of the top teams of the last few at the Northville Winter Shootout.

Saturday – Ann Arbor Huron (0-0) vs. Detroit Edison (1-1) at Northville – After finishing 23-3 last winter, Huron will cap its first week of games this season with this 8 p.m. matchup at the Winter Shootout.'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) Cadillac works to clog the lane during its 53-38 win over Mount Pleasant. (Middle) Goodrich and Clio face off Friday, with the Martians going on to a 71-34 victory. (Top photo by High School Sports Scene. 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.)