Breslin Bound: Boys Quarterfinal Preview

March 18, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Tonight's MHSAA boys basketball Quarterfinals include plenty of matchups you'd expect to see during the final week of the season – and a few that will establish clear favorites as we move to Breslin Center this weekend. 

In Class A, powers Detroit Pershing and Romulus have been considered the frontrunners all season and square off for the second time. In Class C, the winner of Detroit Consortium and Flint Beecher likely will be considered the team to beat this weekend. And in Class D, Southfield Christian and Climax-Scotts meet in a rematch of last season's MHSAA Final. 

See below for a quick glance at all 16 games being played this evening. And click here for brackets including tip-off times and sites for every game. 

Class A

Detroit Pershing (25-0) vs. Romulus (24-1): This rematch, held at University of Detroit Mercy, pits what most believe are the two best teams in the state regardless of class. Pershing won the first matchup, 83-76 on Dec. 8, and has continued to stack victories by large margins and close – including by two points in two of the last three games. Get there early for the 5 p.m. tip.

Saginaw (22-3) vs. Ypsilanti (20-4): The reigning Class A champion Trojans have rebounded from a 30-point loss to Romulus on the final night of the regular season to beat all of their tournament opponents by double figures. Ypsilanti is riding a 10-game winning streak and is a combined five points from boasting a 23-1 record.

Detroit Southeastern (19-5) vs. Rochester (21-4): Southeastern might’ve gone a little under the radar following Detroit Public School League frontrunners Pershing and Cass Tech. But the Jungaleers can make a loud statement by beating Rochester and Kentucky recruit James Young, a Mr. Basketball finalist this season.

Grand Rapids Christian (19-6) vs. Muskegon (19-6): The Eagles and standout Drake Harris have been making headlines lately and have bounced back nicely from a 2-4 start this winter. But Muskegon has to come in with some confidence as well after beating Christian 72-48 in their lone meeting Jan. 22. 

Class B

Big Rapids (23-1) vs. Cadillac (20-4): Both of these teams are league champions – Cadillac as one of three that shared in the Big North Conference and Big Rapids after finishing 18-0 in the Central State Activities Association. Both boast high-scoring guards – Big Rapids led by junior Quinn Tyson (21.7 ppg) and Cadillac countering with senior Nick Paquet (15 ppg).

Detroit Country Day (22-3) vs. Flint Powers Catholic (13-12): Country Day is playing to return to the Semifinals for the fourth straight season and is keyed by 6-foot-3 point guard Edmond Sumner (16.1 ppg). Powers is looking to get back for the first time since 2009 and has made a nice run after a 3-8 start under first-year coach Jeremy Trent, formerly of Swartz Creek and Burton Bentley.  

Jackson Lumen Christi (21-3) vs. Detroit Community (16-9): After losing seasons in coach Rich Karasek’s first two, Lumen Christi is having one of its best seasons ever; the Titans are a combined 12 points from being undefeated and eliminated two-time reigning MHSAA champion Lansing Sexton in the Regional. Community’s record is a bit deceiving – four of those losses came to Class A or C Quarterfinalists and two more to out-of-state powers.

Stevensville Lakeshore (24-0) vs. Wyoming Godwin Heights (22-2): Lakeshore is 48-2 over the last two seasons, and another win also would be coach Sean Schroeder’s 400th.  Similarly, Godwin Heights is 46-3 over the last two seasons. One of its losses this winter was to Class A Quarterfinalist Grand Rapids Christian, and the Wolverines beat Class D Quarterfinalist Wyoming Tri-unity Christian. 

Class C

Detroit Consortium (20-3) vs. Flint Beecher (24-1): Consortium has played courageously since coach Al Anderson died unexpectedly a month ago; the Cougars have won all eight games since that night and 19 of their last 20. Now they’ll contend with reigning Class C champion Flint Beecher and Mr. Basketball Monte Morris (21.5 ppg), whose only loss was by seven to Class A favorite Detroit Pershing on Jan. 19.  

Laingsburg (22-2) vs. Beaverton (22-2): This is Beaverton’s fifth Quarterfinal under coach Roy Johnston, who has won 705 games over 39 seasons at four schools and took Beaverton to the Semifinals in 1984. The Wolfpack have made it this far twice before during coach Greg Mitchell’s 24-season career – in 1997 and 2002 – and he’d win his 350th game if Laingsburg advances.    

Maple City Glen Lake (23-2) vs. Negaunee (23-1): Glen Lake is only a combined four points from being perfect this season, and the run has included beating reigning Class C runner-up Traverse City St. Francis during the regular season and again in the District Final. Negaunee improved to 45-4 over the last two seasons with its Regional title, and also avenged its lone loss, to Class A Marquette.

Schoolcraft (23-2) vs. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (22-2): St. Mary Catholic is back in the Quarterfinals for the second time in three seasons, and aside from a pair of losses to Milan is undefeated this winter. Schoolcraft has won three straight Regionals and was the Class C champion in 2011. Guard Luke Ryskamp was his team’s leading scorer that night as a sophomore, and is finishing off one last run.

Class D

Climax-Scotts (24-1) vs. Southfield Christian: This rematch of the 2012 MHSAA Final takes place a couple games earlier and this time at Battle Creek Central, but should be closer than last season’s 76-44 Southfield Christian win. A one-point loss to Mendon is the only flaw on Climax-Scotts’ record, and Southfield Christian has won 17 straight since opening 3-4.  

Cedarville (22-1) vs. Powers North Central (22-3): People still bring up Cedarville’s 3-point fueled run to the 2007 championship, and the Trojans could be back, as their only loss was to another Quarterfinalist, Frankfort. North Central also has a great story – the team won a combined 25 games over coach Adam Mercier’s first four seasons before upping it to 16 each of the last two and 22 this winter.

Lansing Christian (21-3) vs. Beal City (17-7): Both of these teams are hoping to march to a first MHSAA title. The Pilgrims have won 16 straight and boast four players who average double figures scoring. The Aggies will counter with a defensive effort that has held opponents to fewer than 50 points 12 times this season.

Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (23-2) vs. Frankfort (20-5): Tri-unity is back in the hunt for a fifth MHSAA championship and second in three seasons; the Defenders have won 17 straight and as usual against a number of bigger schools. Frankfort has made a major rebound after losing four of its last five during the regular season and counters with 6-3 sophomore David Loney (17.8 ppg). 

PHOTO: Romulus' Juwan Clark gathers a loose ball during a win over Saginaw Arthur Hill last month. (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.)