Breslin Bound: Boys C-D Semis Preview

March 20, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

If new MHSAA champions are crowned in Class C and D this weekend at Michigan State's University's Breslin Center, there's a possibility they'll celebrate another accomplishment to go along with taking home the top trophy – beating last season's champion along the way. 

Among eight teams taking the court Thursday are reigning Class C champion Flint Beecher and reigning Class D champion Southfield Christian. 

Below is the schedule for all four Thursday Semifinals and four Saturday Finals, plus broadcast information and a look at all eight C and D Semifinalists. 

Semifinals - Thursday
Class C
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (23-2) vs Flint Beecher (25-1), 1 p.m. 
Laingsburg (23-2) vs Negaunee (24-1), 2:50 p.m. 

Class D
Powers North Central (23-3) vs Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (24-2), 6 p.m. 
Southfield Christian (21-4) vs Lansing Christian (22-3), 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 C and D. 

Class C

Record/rank: 25-1, No. 1
League finish: First in Genesee Area Conference Red
Coach: Mike Williams, ninth season (163-65)
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recently 2012), four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 83-46 over No. 7 Harbor Beach (Regional Semifinal), 69-47 over No. 6 Mount Clemens (Regional Final), 46-44 over No. 9 Detroit Consortium (Quarterfinal).
Players to watch: Monte Morris, 6-3 sr. G (21.5 ppg, 9.5 apg, 5.3 rpg, 5.4 spg); Markell Lucas, 6-4 sr. F (8.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg).
Outlook: Williams has returned Beecher to powerhouse status, with a combined 77-4 record over the last three seasons. Obviously, Iowa State recruit Morris has had a lot to do with that; the four-year varsity player was named Mr. Basketball earlier this week. Lucas earned all-state honorable mention Tuesday and also started in last season’s Final, and junior guard Emmanuel Phifer (11.1 ppg) was a top option off the bench in 2012 and now is the team’s second-leading scorer. Its only loss was to Class A No. 1 Detroit Pershing, by seven.

Record/rank: 23-2, honorable mention
League finish: Tied for first in Central Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Greg Mitchell, 24th season (350-191) 
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 40-37 and 44-33 (District Semifinal) over honorable mention Pewamo-Westphalia, 61-59 over honorable mention Muskegon Heights (Regional Final), 42-32 over honorable mention Beaverton (Quarterfinal).
Players to watch: Jake Zielinski, 6-2 sr. G/F (16 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.4 apg); Shaun McKinney, 6-3 sr. G/F (11.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.2 apg).
Outlook: This run has been a worthy reward for one of the Lansing area’s most consistent programs – the Wolfpack have posted 20 winning seasons under Mitchell, and only one losing season over the last 14. Laingsburg relies on veteran leadership and balance; four seniors start and six are part of the main rotation, and four more players in addition to the two above average between four and eight points per game.

Record/rank: 23-2, honorable mention
League finish: Second in Huron League
Coach: Randy Windham, fourth season (74-25)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.  
Best wins: 59-48 over honorable mention Hillsdale (Regional Semifinal), 71-62 over honorable mention Schoolcraft (Quarterfinal), 47-32 over Class D honorable mention Adrian Lenawee Christian.
Players to watch: Kevin Woodson, 6-2 sr. G (19 ppg, 53 3-pointers, 2.2 apg); Chinedu Nwosu, 6-3 sr. F (9.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg).
Outlook: Aside from a pair of losses to Class A honorable mention Milan, St. Mary cruised through the Huron League against mostly much larger opponents and won all of its tournament games by at least nine points. Woodson, an all-state honorable mention, is the leading scorer and top shooter of the bunch, but four others average between five and 10 points per game and two others have made at least 25 3-pointers. The 6-3 Nwosu starts alongside two 6-6 posts, senior Jeffery Albright and junior Bradley Sherman.

Record/rank: 24-1, No. 3
League finish: First in Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference
Coach: Michael O’Donnell, eighth season (156-45)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recently 2000), two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 56-55 over honorable mention Maple City Glen Lake (Quarterfinal), 66-41 over Class D honorable mention Eben Junction Superior Central, 55-35 over Marquette.
Players to watch: Tyler Jandron, 6-1 jr. G (17.3 ppg, 4.3 spg, 4.0 apg); Tanner Uren, 6-3 sr. F (12.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.4 spg).
Outlook: Negaunee cruised through the regular season and into the Quarterfinals with only a pair of wins over Gwinn closer than 10 points. The Miners’ lone loss was to Class A Marquette, but they avenged that as well. The rotation is only six players, but they bring a variety of skills; senior Brock Weaver is a 6-7 body in the middle, and junior guard Eric Lori is the second-leading scorer at 12.7 points per game and had 37 3-pointers entering the week. 

Class D

Record/rank: 22-3, honorable mention
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Steve Ernst, first season (22-3). 
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.  
Best wins: 67-54 over honorable mention Adrian Lenawee Christian, 67-32 over Peck (Regional Final), 57-48 over Hanover-Horton.
Players to watch: Skylar Ross, 6-2 sr. F (18.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 60 3-pointers); Jordan Terry, 5-9 jr. G (15.6 ppg, 31 3-pointers, 4.3 apg, 3.1 spg).
Outlook: The Pilgrims made the best of not playing in a league by loading their schedule with much larger opponents; they beat Class A, B and C teams and their losses were twice to Class B Stockbridge and once to a strong St. Johns Homeschoolers program. Ross made the all-state team and Terry earned an honorable mention Tuesday, and they’re joined by two others scoring in double figures: 6-4 senior center Jeff Whitney (14.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg) and 6-0 senior forward Jay Noyola (10.7 ppg, 3.8 spg).

Record/rank: 23-3, No. 10
League finish: First in Skyline Conference and Central UP Conference
Coach: Adam Mercier, seventh season (80-76)
Championship history: 1984 Class D champion.
Best wins: 65-60 and 64-61 (Regional Semifinal) over honorable mention Eben Junction Superior Central, 52-49 and 65-54 (District Semifinal) over honorable mention Carney-Nadeau, 71-57 over No. 2 Cedarville (Quarterfinal).
Players to watch: Travis Vincent, 6-2 jr. F (15.7 ppg, 13.1 rpg, 4.2 bpg); Trevor Ekberg, 6-5 jr. C (11.7 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 3.8 bpg).
Outlook: North Central won its first Regional title in 29 years on the way here, after also winning its first District title in 17 season in 2011 under former all-league player Mercier. And the Jets have made this run with no seniors on the roster. Vincent and Ekberg provide the team with two strong rebounders as the team, on average, is grabbing five more boards than its opponents. Junior forward Rob Granquist adds 12.6 points and three assists per game.

Record/rank: 21-4, No. 3
League finish: First in Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue
Coach: Josh Baker, second season (46-6)
Championship history: MHSAA champion 2012.
Best wins: 51-49 over No. 4 Climax-Scotts (Quarterfinal), 47-46 and 68-61 (Regional Final), over No. 7 Allen Park Inter-City Baptist, 60-58 over Detroit Community
Players to watch: Bakari Evelyn, 6-1 soph. G (20.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.7 apg); Lindsey Hunter IV, 5-10 jr. G (14.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg).
Outlook: Hunter is the only returning starter from last season’s championship team, and he earned an all-state special mention Tuesday. But Evelyn has emerged from the top sub into an all-state selection and keys a team that also beat larger Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and Southfield, among others. Freshman 6-3 guard Eugene Brown provides another big boost – he’s averaging 9.5 points and 11.6 rebounds per game.  

Record/rank: 24-2, No. 1
League finish: First in River Valley Conference
Coach: Mark Keeler, 26th season (498-141) 
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recently 2011), three runner-up finishes.
Best wins:  49-48 over Class A honorable mention Zeeland East, 53-52 over Hudsonville, 55-51 over Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central.
Players to watch: Joey Blauwkamp, 6-1 sr. G/F (14.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 4.2 apg); Daniel Cole, 5-10 sr. G (15 ppg, 2.0 spg).
Outlook: Tri-unity Christian’s template for success is well-established: load the regular-season schedule with larger schools, shine against them, and then do the same on the way to the Breslin Center. The team’s losses were to Class C Grandville Calvin Christian and Class B No. 6 Wyoming Godwin Heights. Blauwkamp was named Class D Player of the Year by The Associated Press on Tuesday, and Cole earned an all-state honorable mention. 

PHOTO: Laingsburg's Sam Edwards (5) works to get around a Grandville Calvin Christian player during the Wolfpack's Regional Semifinal victory. (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.)