Breslin Bound: 2023-24 Boys Report Week 3

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

December 18, 2023

A holiday break means time away from school and work for many over the next few weeks – but not from basketball for several teams across both peninsulas.

MI Student Aid

A total of 52 one-day showcases or multi-day tournaments will help fill in the break between when schools let out in a few days and students return after the new year.

“Break” also describes what happened to the backboard in the video clip below – check out the call by Fred Shaw and Darrin Petrikowski from CTV in St. Clair after Evan Trudeau threw down a dunk against St. Clair Shores Lakeview on Friday – making quite a memorable impact on the new gymnasium, which opened just three weeks ago.

“Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at – and will return after a break Jan. 8.

Week in Review

The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:

1. Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 71, Detroit U-D Jesuit 57 The Warriors’ opening win in the Catholic High School League Central was a major one as these two were the top two teams in the standings last season. Heading into this week, Rice sits 6-0 and Jesuit is 4-1.

2. Grand Rapids South Christian 58, Hudsonville Unity Christian 56 South Christian (3-1) ran its win streak to three over the rival Crusaders (3-3), with this one following up last season’s in a Division 2 Quarterfinal.

3. Canton 59, Lansing Waverly 55 These teams won 16 and 18 games, respectively, last season, and both have aspirations this winter with Canton improving to 3-2 and Waverly falling to 4-2 after their Northville Winter Shootout matchup.

4. DeWitt 60, Grand Ledge 50 The Comets (4-2) topped this list last week with their win over Saginaw, but DeWitt (6-0) makes it this time with a solid start to Capital Area Activities Conference Blue play.

5. Hamtramck 51, River Rouge 46 River Rouge (3-2) won both matchups of this high-powered rivalry last season, and Hamtramck (5-1) will try to finish a sweep when they meet again Jan. 19.

Watch List

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


Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (4-1) The Rangers’ lone loss came during the opening Friday to Muskegon Reeths-Puffer, featured in this space a week ago in part because of that victory. Forest Hills Central won three times last week including by three points apiece over Caledonia and Grandville, adding to a solid start as it looks to improve on last season’s 12-11 finish.

Okemos (6-0) The CAAC Blue could be one of the strongest under-the-radar leagues in the state this winter, and Okemos joins DeWitt and East Lansing as undefeated after handing Lansing Everett its first loss Thursday. The Wolves have won all of their games by at least 12 points, including notables over Williamston and Howell.


Kingsford (6-0) The Flivvers are coming off a historic 2022-23 season – they set a program record with 21 wins and reached the Regional Finals for the first time since 2001. The surge continues as Kingsford’s closest game so far was a 16-pointer in the season opener over Negaunee, a league runner-up last season.   

Whitehall (4-0) The Vikings are enjoying a stretch of three straight league titles (last season’s shared with Ludington) and are off to another solid start with chances coming up to see how they line up farther from home. Whitehall gets Hamtramck and East Grand Rapids this week at the Cornerstone Holiday Classic before getting back into league play against Ludington on Jan. 5.


Cass City (6-0) The Red Hawks took a jump to 21-3 last season after winning six and 13 games the previous two, and they’ve been challenged only once so far – a 54-53 win over Saginaw Nouvel at the Louis O’Neil Tournament at Saginaw Valley State. Carter Patrick went over 1,000 career points earlier this month and keys a team that won six games last season by three or fewer points.

Riverview Gabriel Richard (5-0) The Pioneers have been on a run for a while, but most recently were a combined 59-10 over the last four seasons heading into this one. And this winter could be special if early returns are an indication – Gabriel Richard has handed the only losses so far to Trenton, Romulus Summit Academy and Taylor Trillium.


Pickford (5-0) The Panthers jumped from 4-18 two seasons ago to 13-9 last winter and could be on their way to another major move. They’ve already avenged last season’s loss to reigning Division 4 champion Munising, 64-61 last Tuesday, and they’ll get their first chance against reigning Eastern Upper Peninsula Conference champion Rudyard on Jan. 4. Rudyard defeated Pickford three times last season, including in their District Final.

Taylor Trillium Academy (5-1) That 73-55 loss noted above to Gabriel Richard was a great challenge for Trillium coming off last season’s run to the Division 4 Quarterfinals, and no one else this season has gotten closer than 18 points. Trillium finishes its 2023 calendar year schedule Thursday with the first of two games against Center Line Prep Academy, which should be another good test off to a 4-1 start.

Can’t-Miss Contests

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

Dec. 27 – East Lansing (3-0) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (4-2) at Detroit Cass Tech – East Lansing is considered perhaps the best from a strong Lansing area as it takes one of Detroit’s annual elite at the Public School League Holiday Tournament.

Dec. 27 – Chelsea (1-1) at Detroit Cass Tech (4-0) – The reigning Division 1 champion Technicians face a 2023 Division 2 quarterfinalist in the 7:45 p.m. finale of the PSL Holiday Tournament.

Dec. 28 – Warren De La Salle Collegiate (4-0) vs. Flint Powers Catholic (5-0) at Ferndale – The Pilots have a pair of Motor City Roundball Classic games against strong Flint-area teams, with Goodrich also on the slate for Dec. 30.

Dec. 30 – Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (3-0) vs. Warren Lincoln (4-0) at Ferndale – This Roundball Classic matchup is a rematch of last season’s St. Mary’s triple-overtime win over the Abes.

Dec. 30 – Ann Arbor Huron (3-0) vs. Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (6-0) at North Farmington – These Division 1 contenders will face off in the 7 p.m. slot at the North Farmington Holiday Extravaganza.'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.

PHOTO A pair of Detroit University Prep defenders stretch for a block against Davison last week during the Cardinals' 89-82 overtime win. (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.)