Breslin Bound: Boys C-D Semis Preview

March 19, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

One contender at Thursday’s MHSAA Class C and D Semifinals is hoping to finish this weekend with a third straight championship. Another is hoping to begin a three-season winning streak at the Breslin Center.

Two-time reigning Class D champion Southfield Christian returns four starters and a top sub from its 2013 title team. And Detroit Consortium is seeking its first championship – but led by sophomore Joshua Jackson, arguably the state’s top player regardless of class or grade.

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. (Class A and B previews and Friday’s schedule will be posted later Thursday.)

Semifinals - Thursday
Class C

Pewamo-Westphalia (22-2) vs. Muskegon Heights (20-3), 1 p.m.
Detroit Consortium (23-2) vs. Negaunee (24-1), 2:50 p.m.

Class D
Frankfort (20-6) vs. Southfield Christian (24-1), 6 p.m.
Cedarville (23-2) vs. Adrian Lenawee Christian (20-4), 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 MHSAA.TV on a pay-per-view basis. All four Finals will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit-PLUS. 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: 23-2, No. 2
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Tobias Tuomi, first season (23-2) 
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 67-61 over No. 1 Mount Clemens in Quarterfinal, 64-48 over No. 5 Detroit Allen in Regional Semifinal, 72-57 over Class A No. 5 Saginaw Arthur Hill, 58-43 over Class A No. 7 Detroit Southeastern, 79-72 over Class A No. 6 Romulus, 87-70 over Class B No. 9 Detroit Country Day, 67-52 over Class B honorable mention Detroit Douglass.
Players to watch: Joshua Jackson, 6-8 soph. G/F (25 ppg, 14.7 rpg, 5.2 apg, 3.9 spg, 3.7 bpg); Ronald Booth, 5-9 sr. G (12.1 ppg, 8.2 apg, 3.2 spg).
Outlook: Consortium has beaten a schedule loaded with top teams from Classes A, B and C, similar to how Johnson loads up a stat sheet in every category – he also had 30 3-pointers entering the week making 46 percent of those attempts and 70 percent from the field as a whole. Two more guards, senior Rudy Smith (9.7) and sophomore Luster Johnson (10.5), add to the potent offense.  

Record/rank: 20-3, No. 9
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Dalrecus Stewart, second season (39-8) 
Championship history: Six MHSAA titles (most recent 1979) eight runner-up finishes.  
Best wins: 59-57 over honorable mention Hillsdale in Quarterfinal, 72-59 over Saugatuck in District opener, 67-66 over Benton Harbor, 92-52 over Class D No. 7 Baldwin.
Players to watch: Eddrick Tornes, 6-1 sr. G (12 ppg); Aaron Sydnor, 6-3 sr. G/F (10.6 ppg).
Outlook: Muskegon Heights’ return to Breslin comes after it finished Class B runner-up in 2011, closed in spring 2012 and reopened that fall as a public school academy. The Tigers have one of the longest traditions of success in MHSAA history, with their first championship game appearance in 1939. Their losses this season are as notable as their best wins: by only one to No. 6 Shelby, just four to Class A Rockford and 12 to Class A Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills.

Record/rank: 22-2, No. 10
League finish: First in Central Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Luke Pohl, 17th season (312-75) 
Championship history: Class C runner-up 1993.   
Best wins: 42-41 over Flint Beecher in Quarterfinal, 59-55 over No. 6 Shelby in Regional Final, 57-46 over honorable mention Hillsdale, 66-19 over Class D honorable mention Fulton.
Players to watch: Lane Smith, 6-5 sr. C (11.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg); Nick Spitzley, 6-2 sr. G (18.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg).
Outlook: This run has been a career quest for a group of nine seniors, including five who start. The Pirates have won four straight league titles and Regional championships two of the last three seasons. Spitzley is a four-year standout and one of the top scorers in school history – he also had 61 3-pointers entering the week. As a team, P-W has shot an impressive 47 percent from the floor, with six players drilling at least 10 3-pointers. They are a combined five points from perfection, falling only to Detroit Loyola by two in the third game this season and Fulton by three before avenging with a 47-point win over the Pirates.

Record/rank: 24-1, No. 3
League finish: First in Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference
Coach: Michael O’Donnell, ninth season (173-47) 
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recently 2000), two runner-up finishes. 
Best wins: 63-42 over honorable mention East Jordan in Quarterfinal, 64-48 over Ishpeming in District Final, 61-55 over Class A honorable mention Marquette.
Players to watch: Tyler Jandron, 6-1 sr. G (17.5 ppg, 4.2 apg, 3.3 spg); Eric Lori, 5-10 sr. G (16.6 ppg, 3.6 apg).
Outlook: Negaunee was played closer by a lot of its opponents compared to during last season’s run to the Breslin, but the results were the same. The Miners have rattled off 21 straight wins since falling to Marquette and beat the Redmen along the way. Jandron and Lori are back as the team’s top-two leading scorers and with junior Robert Loy make up a strong three-guard backcourt. Total the trio had combined for 92 3-pointers heading into this week.  

Class D

Record/rank: 20-4, honorable mention
League finish: Does not play in a league. 
Coach: Scott McKelvey, second season (39-8)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.  
Best wins: 56-51 OT over No. 5 Battle Creek St. Philip in Quarterfinal, 44-42 over Morenci in District Final, 46-44 over Class B honorable mention Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central. 
Player to watch: Grant Holbein, 6-2 sr. G (11.1 ppg).
Outlook: Lenawee Christian avenged its lone loss to a Class D team, Morenci, with a close win in the District Final, and has taken a few more steps after finishing 19-4 and as Regional runner-up in 2012-13. The Cougars’ other losses this season were to Class B No. 1 Jackson Lumen Christi, Class C No. 5 Detroit Allen and Class C honorable mention Addison.

Record/rank: 23-2, No. 6
League finish: First in Eastern Upper Peninsula Conference
Coach: Dave Duncan, 24th season (404-168) 
Championship history: Class D champion 2007, three runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 60-53 over honorable mention Frankfort, 63-57 over No. 8 Hillman in Regional Final, 81-79 over No. 2 Powers North Central in Quarterfinal.
Player to watch: Joey Duncan, 6-0 jr. G (21 ppg).
Outlook: Cedarville is plenty familiar with the season’s final week having won Regional titles eight of the last nine seasons, but is back at the Semifinals for the first time since finishing Class D runner-up in 2009. Joey Duncan was named all-state Tuesday and leads a squad with only three seniors. The Trojans scored at least 80 points in 11 games.

Record/rank: 20-6, honorable mention
League finish: Second in Northwest Conference
Coach: Reggie Manville, third season (41-23) 
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.  
Best wins: 47-44 over honorable mention Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart, 75-71 over No. 7 Baldwin, 47-45 over Class C honorable mention Traverse City St. Francis.
Players to watch: David Loney, 6-3 jr. C (20.1 ppg, 11.2 rpg); Brandon Schaub, 5-10 sr. G (9.5 ppg, 2.3 apg).
Outlook: Frankfort played in its second straight Quarterfinal on Tuesday and advanced to its first Semifinal since 1969. The Panthers got that chance in part because they were able to get past Suttons Bay, which beat Frankfort twice during the regular season to finish on top of the Northwest Conference. Loney was named all-state Tuesday and keys an offense that is otherwise balanced, with six more players averaging 4-6 ppg. Manville formerly coached at Flint Southwestern for 14 seasons and then Big Rapids for one during the 1980s and 90s.

Record/rank: 24-1, No. 1
League finish: First in Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue
Coach: Clennie Brundidge, first season (24-1) 
Championship history: MHSAA champion 2013 and 2012.
Best wins: 61-44 over No. 4 Peck in Quarterfinal, 54-51, 68-56 and 67-62 (Regional Final) over No. 9 Allen Park Inter-City Baptist, 75-62 and 66-47 over Auburn Hills Oakland Christian.
Players to watch: Bakari Evelyn, 6-1 jr. G (16 ppg, 4.6 apg); Lindsey Hunter IV, 5-10 sr. G (14.8 ppg); Damarco White, 6-6 sr. F (8.9 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Eugene Brown, 6-5 soph. G (11.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg).  
Outlook: Southfield Christian is playing for its third straight MHSAA title, this time under promoted assistant Brundidge – who also has coached at Southfield and Troy. Hunter and White were named all-state and Brown received an honorable mention, and Evelyn joined Brown, White and junior guard Kameron Garner among starters in last season’s Final. The only loss this winter came to Class A No. 5 Saginaw Arthur Hill. 

PHOTO: Pewamo-Westphalia's Nick Spitzley (right) matches up with Aquavius Burks during the Pirates' comeback win over reigning Class C champion Flint Beecher in Tuesday's Quarterfinal. (Click to see more from 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.)