Breslin Bound: Boys A-B Semis Preview

March 20, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Some semi-ancient history is at risk of being updated during the Class A and B Finals this weekend at Michigan State University's Breslin Center. 

Detroit Southeastern is seeking is first title since 1926 and Grand Rapids Christian since 1938. Wyoming Godwin Heights will play for its first championship game berth since 1960, but also as one of three Class B Semifinalists looking to win it all for the first time. 

Standing in the way? In Class A, it's reigning champion Saginaw and heavy favorite Romulus. In Class B, one of the state's most successful programs ever, Detroit Country Day. 

Below is the schedule for all four Friday Semifinals and Saturday Finals, plus broadcast information and a look at all eight A and B Semifinalists. 

Semifinals - Friiday
Class A
Romulus (25-1) vs Grand Rapids Christian (20-6), 1 p.m. 
Detroit Southeastern (20-5) vs Saginaw (23-3), 2:50 p.m. 

Class B
Cadillac (21-4) vs Detroit Country Day (23-3), 6 p.m. 
Detroit Community (17-9) vs Wyoming Godwin Heights (23-2), 7:50 p.m.

Finals - Saturday
Class A - Noon
Class B - 6:30 pm
Class C - 4:30 pm 
Class D - 10 am 

Tickets cost $8 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session. All Semifinals will be streamed live on and available on a pay-per-view basis for $3.95 per day or $6.95 for the weekend. Saturday's first three Finals will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit, with the Class B game on Fox Sports Plus and then re-broadcast on Fox Sports Detroit at 10:30 p.m.. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on

And now, a look at the Semifinalists in Class A and B. 

Class A

Record/rank: 20-5, honorable mention
League finish: Second in Detroit Public School League East
Coach: George Ward, fourth season (82-15)
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recently 1926), one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 54-49 (OT) over honorable mention Macomb L’Anse Creuse North (Regional Final), 54-49 over Rochester (Quarterfinal), 71-52 over Class B No. 4 Harper Woods Chandler Park, 48-44 over Class B No. 10 Detroit Douglass.
Players to watch: Jovone Haynes, 6-0 sr. G; Kenyatta Singleton, 6-0 sr. G. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Although Southeastern’s championships came in 1925 and 1926, they finished Class A runner-up only two seasons ago and with Singleton a prominent player off the bench. That Southeastern was likely the third-best Detroit PSL team during the regular season speaks to the league’s strength again this winter, and the Jungaleers lost to reigning Class A champion Saginaw and No. 8 Detroit Cass Tech by one point apiece and Ann Arbor Pioneer and River Rouge by only two each.

Record/rank: 20-6, honorable mention
League finish: First in O-K White
Coach: Steve Majerle, first season (20-6)
Championship history: Lower Peninsula Class B champion 1938, one runner-up finish.  
Best wins: 72-69 over No. 9 East Kentwood (District Semifinal), 64-61 over honorable mention Lansing Waverly (Regional Semifinal), 78-70 over honorable mention Holt (Regional Final), 64-61 over Muskegon, 70-59 over Class B No. 6 Wyoming Godwin Heights.
Players to watch: Drake Harris, 6-4 jr. G; Wuoi Mach, 6-4 sr. C. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Grand Rapids Christian has been surging with 10 straight wins and avenged a previous 24-point loss by beating Muskegon in the Quarterfinal. Harris is the catalyst and will try to add a basketball championship to the football title in which he played a large role at the end of November. Majerle previously coached Rockford to the 2003 Class A championship.

Record/rank: 25-1, No. 2
League finish: First in Western Wayne Athletic Conference Blue
Coach: Nate Oats, 11th season (220-52)
Championship history: Class A champion 1986, one runner-up finish. 
Best wins: 93-91 over No. 1 Detroit Pershing (Quarterfinal), 82-71 over No. 4 Saginaw Arthur Hill, 93-63 over No. 6 Saginaw, 75-65 over Class B No. 1 Detroit Country Day.
Players to watch: E.C. Matthews, 6-4 sr. G (16.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg); Leonardo Edwards, 6-8 sr. C (11 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.1 bpg), Wes Clark, 6-0 sr. G (11.8 ppg, 5.7 apg).
Outlook: Throw in wins over Lansing Sexton, Detroit Community, Detroit Douglass, Detroit Consortium, Chicago Seton and Indianapolis Cathedral, and no team in Michigan has defeated as impressive a slate. The Eagles’ lone loss was to Pershing by six in their second game this season, and Romulus avenged that Tuesday. Senior forward Jalon Plummer (11.2 ppg, 47 3-pointers) also adds double-digit scoring. Matthews has signed with Rhode Island, Clark with Missouri and Edwards with Louisiana Tech.

Record/rank: 23-3, No. 6
League finish: Second in Saginaw Valley Association North
Coach: Julian Taylor, second season (48-5)
Championship history: Six MHSAA titles (most recently 2012), four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 75-64 and 86-76 (District Final) over No. 4 Saginaw Arthur Hill, 57-56 over honorable mention Detroit Southeastern, 86-61 over Class B No. 4 Harper Woods Chandler Park.
Players to watch: Julian Henderson, 6-2 sr. G; Keyon Addison, 6-1 jr. G. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: The Trojans have won three of the last six Class A championships, and Henderson was the second-leading scorer in last season’s title game win over Rockford. Saginaw already avenged its early loss to Arthur Hill, and no doubt would like to face Romulus again after falling to the Eagles in the regular-season finale. 

Class B

Record/rank: 21-4, unranked
League finish: Tied for first in Big North Conference
Coach: Jeff McDonald, 19th season (303-124)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.  
Best wins: 41-29 over No. 8 Big Rapids (Semifinal), 47-46 over Petoskey, 56-53 over Traverse City West.
Players to watch: Nick Paquet, 5-9 sr. G (15 ppg, 45 3-pointers); Jalen Brooks, 6-4 jr. F (12.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg).
Outlook: Cadillac is 63-11 over the last three seasons with Regional championships to cap off each. The Vikings also won a share of their league title this season by avenging early losses against other sharers Petoskey and Traverse City West. They have good size, with five players 6-4 or taller, and plenty of balance; four more join Paquet and Brooks to average between four and seven points per game.

Record/rank: 17-9, unranked
League finish: Second in Michigan Metro Athletic Conference
Coach: Venias Jordan, Jr., first season (17-9)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 50-47 over honorable mention Jackson Lumen Christi (Quarterfinal), 61-48 over Class C No. 8 Melvindale Academy for Business & Technology,
Player to watch: Byron Zeigler, 6-6 sr. F (statistics not submitted).
Outlook: Don’t be fooled by Community’s nine losses. Instead, consider some of the teams they came against: Class A top-10 teams Detroit Pershing (by two), Cass Tech and Romulus, honorable mention Detroit Southeastern, ranked Class C Detroit Consortium and reigning Class D champion Southfield Christian, among others. Zeigler has signed with South Florida.

Record/rank: 23-3, No. 1
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Kurt Keener, 35th season (676-180)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA titles (most recently 2010), one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 75-57 over No. 4 Harper Woods Chandler Park (Regional Semifinal), 73-51 over No. 10 Detroit Douglass (Regional Final), 68-48 over Class A honorable mention Macomb L’Anse Creuse North, 86-61 over Class A No. 4 Saginaw Arthur Hill.
Players to watch: Edmond Sumner, 6-3 jr. G (16.1 ppg, 6.2 apg); Austin Price, 6-3 sr. G (12.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 63 3-pointers, 3.2 spg); Mory Diane, 6-2 sr. G (12.1 ppg).
Outlook: A few fun Country Day facts: The last time the Yellowjackets didn’t make it to Breslin was 2009; the last time they finished a season with fewer than 20 wins was 2004. Country Day starts out small (relatively speaking; no player is shorter than 5-11) but can get big with future Texas Tech offensive lineman Poet Thomas (6-7, 285 pounds) off the bench. Price has signed with Lehigh and makes nearly 40 percent of his 3-point shots.

Record/rank: 23-2, No. 6
League finish: First in O-K Silver
Coach: Chad Conklin, sixth season (98-39)
Championship history: Two runner-up finishes (most recently 1960).
Best wins: 79-72 over No. 7 Comstock Park (Regional Semifinal), 56-52 over No. 2 Stevensville Lakeshore (Quarterfinal), 60-58 over Class D No. 1 Wyoming Tri-unity Christian
Players to watch: Jamal Bland, 5-10 sr. G (14.9 ppg, 3.2 apg); Quantrell Hastings, 6-1 sr. F (15.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg).
Outlook: One more win and Godwin Heights will have improved on or tied the previous season’s win total in all six of Conklin’s winters running the program. Senior guard Braima Hai (10.9 ppg, 5.2 apg) runs the show, and sophomore guard Delaney Blaylock (11.2 ppg) also scores in double figures. 

PHOTO: Saginaw junior Joseph Williams-Powell (44) drives against a Midland defender during the Trojans' Regional Semifinal win last week. (Click to see more at

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.)