Breslin Bound: 2023-24 Boys Report Week 9

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

January 29, 2024

It’s final four time for all 729 of Michigan’s boys basketball teams.

MI Student Aid

This one doesn’t have all the glitz and glam of March’s, of course. But only four weeks remain this regular season, and every team is involved as league titles are being decided, seeding scenarios are shifting, and even the hundreds not involved in either can build toward a fresh start when District play begins.

“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 50, Detroit Martin Luther King 45 (OT) The Technicians (12-1) set themselves up to clinch a share of the Detroit Public School League Blue title two days later against Pershing, but like last season could see King (12-4) again in the PSL Tournament.

2. Warren Lincoln 62, East Lansing 54 The Abes (12-2) may have cemented themselves as midseason favorites in Division 2 by handing the Division 1 Trojans (13-1) their only loss, at Detroit Cass Tech’s Downtown Showdown.

3. Grand Rapids Northview 57, North Farmington 51 Northview (11-1) continued its Division 1 climb at the 2K24 Showcase at Aquinas College by handing North Farmington (13-1) its only defeat.

4. East Lansing 66, Okemos 54 While Saturday’s loss no doubt was disappointing, the Trojans (13-1) were coming off a massive win locally as Okemos (12-2) might be next up in the conversation for the Lansing area’s best.

5. Jackson Lumen Christi 62, Riverview Gabriel Richard 49 The Titans (12-1) took over first place alone in the Catholic High School League AA by handing Richard (12-2) its only league loss.

Beal City and LeRoy Pine River face off Jan. 22; the Aggies won 67-39.

Watch List

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


Ann Arbor Huron (10-2) Few teams statewide had a better week than Huron, which vaulted to the top of the Southeastern Conference Red standings by a half-game by handing the first league losses to Ypsilanti Lincoln (58-45) and Saline (65-52). The River Rats then downed Hamtramck 68-47 at Belleville’s Fast Break Invitational, adding to a growing resume as they look to build on last season’s Quarterfinal run.

Grand Rapids Northview (11-1) As noted above, Northview is coming off handing North Farmington its only loss, and they will face a similar challenge in Ann Arbor Huron (above) on Saturday as part of the second round of 2K24 Showcase games. The Wildcats’ only loss came to another Division 1 contender, Detroit King, 54-53 at East Kentwood two weekends ago. All of those matchups are great prep for the MHSAA Tournament, but in the meantime Northview is tied for first with Grand Rapids Christian in the Ottawa-Kent Conference White with their matchups coming up Feb. 9 and 14.


Hudsonville Unity Christian (10-4) Unity Christian is 6-0 for the 2024 calendar year, corresponding with a 6-0 start to the O-K Blue schedule that has included handing Coopersville (12-2) its only league defeat, 58-56. The early going saw nice wins over Grand Rapids Covenant Christian and Schoolcraft and also solid losses to Zeeland West, Grandville, Grand Rapids South Christian and Hudsonville High. The Crusaders’ biggest game left surely is the Coopersville rematch, Feb. 16 at home.

Onsted (9-4) The Wildcats trail only Dundee in the Lenawee County Athletic Association, and talk about good losses – Onsted’s defeats were to the Vikings (14-1), Stockbridge (11-4) and Freeland (12-1). Onsted also has notable wins over Michigan Center (11-3), Wayne Memorial (7-4) and Ida (10-4) among others and will host Dundee in the rematch Feb. 10 as the Wildcats look to keep their league title streak alive with at least a shared championship this time.


Benzie Central (11-2) After tying for second in the Northwest Conference and finishing 12-12 overall last season, Benzie took major steps last week toward regaining the title and eclipsing last season’s overall win total. A 60-51 victory over reigning champ Glen Lake left the Huskies as the only undefeated team in league play, and they capped the week with a 58-55 overtime win over Division 1 Bay City Western at the Jeff McDonald Memorial Showcase at Cadillac. December losses to Big Rapids (9-4) and Menominee (10-3) gave Benzie early looks at tough competition as well.

Sanford Meridian (10-2) The Mustangs have a two-game lead in a Jack Pine Conference where five of eight teams have eight or more wins, and after finishing runners-up in the league the last three seasons. They’ve earned all 10 of their wins by at least 13 points. The losses came to Division 2 Frankenmuth and Division 1 Macomb L’Anse Creuse North, both before the new calendar year began, and Meridian will test itself against likely its toughest regular season challenge Feb. 13 at Freeland.


Bellevue (10-1) The Broncos are a one-point December loss to Delton Kellogg from a perfect first half of the season, and they’ve won 39 straight league games (and eight straight championships) as they sit atop the Southern Central Athletic Association West standings. Bellevue also is halfway to a seventh 20-win season over the last eight, with the lone sub-20 season when it finished 13-4 in COVID-shortened 2020-21. Second-place Battle Creek St. Philip hosts the Broncos on Friday, and next week’s matchup with Hillsdale Academy is on the radar as well.

Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (10-2) Last season’s Division 4 runner-up is revving for another run, having defeated Wyoming Godwin Heights and handed Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart its only loss while falling only to Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (10-5) by two and Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (11-4) by four points. The Godwin win avenged a 2022-23 loss, and two dates to circle are Friday against Wyoming Lee and Feb. 22 against Potter’s House Christian. Both also defeated Tri-unity last season as Lee went on to win the Alliance League instead.

Can’t-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (12-1) at Muskegon (10-0) – Reeths-Puffer got within four points of the Big Reds in last season’s Division 1 District Final, and this time they meet tied for first in the O-K Green.

Tuesday – Benton Harbor (16-0) at Kalamazoo Central (8-3) – The Division 2 Tigers’ perfect season will be on the line when they visit the Division 1 Maroon Giants.

Friday – Traverse City West (11-4) at Cadillac (12-1) – The Vikings bounced back from their lone loss by defeating Dearborn Fordson in overtime Saturday, and they can take a sizable step toward wrapping up the Big North Conference title by finishing a season sweep of second-place West.

Saturday – Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (12-1) vs. East Lansing (13-1) at Aquinas College – The second round of this season’s 2K24 Showcase should end up one of the most exciting single days of hoops competition in the state this regular season, with this 6 p.m. tip offering arguably the premier matchup.

Saturday – Muskegon (10-0) vs. Grand Rapids Christian (11-1) at Aquinas College – 2K24 finishes with this 7:30 p.m. meeting of potential Breslin-Bound contenders in Divisions 1 and 2, 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) Muskegon’s M’Khi Guy (3) gets to the basket during his team’s 63-45 win over Ferndale on Jan. 6. (Middle) Beal City and LeRoy Pine River face off Jan. 22; the Aggies won 67-39. (Top photo by Tim Reilly; middle photo by High School Sports Scene.)

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.)