Breslin Bound: Boys Quarterfinal Preview

March 23, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

At the end of the week, four teams will finish the 2014-15 MHSAA boys basketball seasons with championship victories. 

And of 32 left in the tournament, 23 have a chance to end on a title-clinching win for the first time. 

That's just something to keep in mind as Quarterfinals are played Tuesday all over the state. In addition, the reigning MHSAA boys basketball champions in Class A and Class B are alive for repeats, three more 2013-14 semifinalists have a chance to book return trips to Finals weekend, and all three Mr. Basketball finalists will play, two literally against each other.

See below for a glance at all 16 Quarterfinals. All tip off at 7 p.m. unless noted, with winners advancing to Thursday and Friday's Semifinals at Michigan State University. 

Class A

Lansing Everett (23-2) vs. Muskegon (23-1) at Lansing Eastern's Don Johnson Fieldhouse

This looks like a battle of the state’s elite post players and Mr. Basketball candidates; reigning Class A champion Muskegon with 6-foot-10 Michigan State recruit and Mr. Basketball Deyonta Davis (18.6 points, 15.4 rebounds, 6.7 blocks per game) and Everett with 6-9 Oregon recruit Trevor Manuel (23.5 ppg, 11 rpg, 6.0 bpg). But with those two battling, the other eight on the floor could decide which team moves on – watch for Muskegon 6-5 senior forward Joeviair Kennedy and 6-3 Everett junior guard Jamyrin Jackson.    

Walled Lake Central (20-5) vs. Saginaw Arthur Hill (22-3) at Grand Blanc

Guard Eric Davis, headed to Texas next season, finished runner-up for Mr. Basketball and leads an Arthur Hill team on a 10-game winning streak since falling to Detroit U-D Jesuit on Feb. 7. The Lumberjacks have played three teams still alive so they won't be surprised by much this week, and they've won all of their postseason games by double digits. Walled Lake Central is playing its first Quarterfinal since 1993 after emerging from one of Class A’s strongest Districts. Junior guard Walter Kelser leads, scoring 18 points per game.

Detroit U-D Jesuit (21-3) vs. Clarkston (24-0) at University of Detroit Mercy, 5:30 p.m.

U-D Jesuit is seeking a return to the Semifinals after advancing for the first time ever last season, and is led again by talented junior guard Cassius Winston (22.4 points, 5.7 assists per game). Clarkston is seeking its first Semifinal appearance since 2009, playing in its first Quarterfinal since that same season. The Wolves also are keyed by a standout guard – freshman Foster Loyer, who scored 30 and 35 points, respectively, during last week’s Regional.

Ypsilanti Community (19-4) vs. Detroit Western International (23-0), 7 p.m.

This is Community’s first Quarterfinal as a new school, although coach Steve Brooks led the former Ypsilanti High to the final week in 2013 as well. The Grizzlies won the Southeastern Conference White and advanced by defeating another league champion, Romulus, in the Regional Final. Western is playing in its first Quarterfinal since 1974 and has had only two games in single digits this winter – with wins over U-D Jesuit and Arthur Hill among their most impressive. Junior guard Brailen Neely scores 15.9 points per game to lead three averaging double digits. 

Class B

Otsego (22-3) vs. Milan (23-2) at Marshall, 6:30 p.m.

Milan returns three starters from last season’s Class B championship game, including leading scorers Latin Davis (19.9 ppg) at guard and Nick Perkins (16.8) at center. Its only losses this winter were to Class A U-D Jesuit and Romulus, and it has won 16 straight. Otsego has won more than 20 games for the third time in four seasons under coach Josh Holmes and will play in its first Quarterfinal since 1984. Senior 7-foot center Seth Dugan (19 ppg, 13 rpg) might be one of the most daunting matchups left in the tournament.  

Wyoming Godwin Heights (23-1) vs. Spring Lake (18-7) at Rockford

Godwin Heights is back in a Quarterfinal for the third straight season and 12th time dating to its first appearance in 1929. The Wolverines have beaten three teams still playing this week – including Otsego – and their only loss was to Class C quarterfinalist NorthPointe Christian. Senior 6-5 guard Delaney Blaylock leads with 16.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. Spring Lake won its third straight District title earlier this month and now will play in the Quarterfinals for the first time in its history. Junior 6-3 center Keegan George leads the Lakers in scoring at 14.4 ppg.

Essexville Garber (21-4) vs. Cadillac (17-8) at Mount Pleasant

Garber emerged from third in the Tri-Valley Conference East to reach its first Quarterfinal after beating 22-win Goodrich in the Regional Final. Senior 6-4 forward C.J. Glaza leads three scoring in double digits, averaging 16.1 points while grabbing 10.4 rebounds per game. Cadillac got off to a 5-6 start on the way to its fifth straight Quarterfinal, although seven of its losses this season were to Class A teams. The Vikings have advanced to the Semifinals the last two years. Guard Andrew Emington (12.8 ppg) leads a balanced offense and is one of eight seniors.

Detroit Henry Ford (19-5) vs. New Haven (25-0) at Marysville

Henry Ford has gone from 10 to 11 to 19 wins over the last three seasons and has a pair of potent scorers in senior small forward Joshua Davis (17 ppg) and junior point guard James Towns (16.5 ppg). The Trojans will be playing in their first Quarterfinal since 1984. New Haven made the Quarterfinals in 2012 but in two trips has never advanced to the final weekend of the season. Senior 6-6 forward Joshua Harris averages 20.5 points per game and has been key during the perfect run, which included a 22-point win over 21-win Yale in the Regional Semifinal.

Class C

McBain (22-2) vs. Boyne City (20-5) at Gaylord

McBain is back in the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2011 but fourth time in seven seasons. Sophomore 6-6 center Craig Sterk leads four scoring in double digits, averaging 16.5 points per game while grabbing 8.8 rebounds per. Boyne City is headed to the Quarterfinals for the first time since 1990 and after winning a competitive Lake Michigan Conference. Senior forward Corey Redman is the leading scorer at 16.4 ppg.

Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (19-5) vs. Shelby (23-1) at Zeeland East

NorthPointe Christian rebounded from three losses over its final four regular-season games and will play its second Quarterfinal and first since 2007. Senior guard Preston Huckaby scores 15 points per game to lead four averaging in double digits for the only team to beat Class B contender Godwin Heights this winter. Shelby suffered only one loss, by three to Muskegon Heights in the regular-season finale. But the Tigers beat eventual Class B quarterfinalist Spring Lake by 22 the week before, and eliminated 21-win Laingsburg in the Regional Final.

Hanover-Horton (23-1) vs. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (22-3) at Ann Arbor Huron

Hanover-Horton has won 20 or more games 10 times and made five Quarterfinals under 17-season coach Chad Mortimer, and is seeking its first Semifinal berth since 2003. Senior guard Stefan Young averages 13.2 ppg as the lead scorer. St. Mary joins Class B’s Milan from the Huron League and will play in its third Quarterfinal in five seasons, hoping for its second Semifinal berth and led by a pair of standout scorers – senior guard Bryce Windham averages 20.4 ppg and junior forward Stephan Umfress adds 18.6.

Millington (19-5) vs. Flint Beecher (23-1) at Burton Bendle

Millington finished second in the TVC East that produced Class B quarterfinalist Essexville Garber, and the Cardinals are seeking their first Semifinal berth. They’re led by a talented backcourt of junior point guard Shawn Pardee (25.6 ppg) and senior shooting guard Austin LeVan (20.9). Beecher, meanwhile, is playing in its eighth straight Quarterfinal and seeking to return to the Semifinals after missing last season for the first time since 2009. Senior guard Cedric Moten leads three averaging double-digit points at 15.1 ppg. 

Class D

Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (14-10) vs. Morenci (22-2) at Kalamazoo Loy Norrix

Tri-unity Christian has navigated a tough schedule to return to the Quarterfinals for the third time in five years. Three players average nine points or more per game, led by senior 6-8 center Chris Osantowski at 11 ppg. Morenci has played only one Quarterfinal – in 1954 in Class C – but improved steadily from eight to 13 to 22 wins over the last three seasons and has won its last seven games by 12 or more points. Senior guard Austin Sandusky runs the show, averaging 14.1 points and four assists per game.  

Waterford Our Lady (24-0) vs. Genesee Christian (17-6) at West Bloomfield

Our Lady will play in its first Quarterfinal since 1993. The team is a combined 41-6 in two seasons under coach Paul Robak and led by a pair for sharp-shooting 6-4 guards – senior Nick Robak averages 23.6 points per game and has made 63 3-pointers, and junior Andrew Kline averages 13.2 points and 6.6 assists per game and has 42 treys. Genesee Christian has played in one other Quarterfinal, in 2006. The Soldiers should be ready for another tough opponent after facing a number of larger schools this season playing as an independent. Seniors Travis Rose and Logan Mowry key a productive frontcourt; Rose averages 14.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.9 steals per game, with Mowry at 14.8 points and 7.2 rpg.    

Fulton (20-4) vs. Frankfort (22-2) at Cadillac

Fulton is back in the Quarterfinals for the first time since finishing Class D runner-up in 2011, and similar to that season can cause damage from behind the 3-point arc. The Pirates have made 209 3-pointers, with junior guard Colton Antes drilling 74 and senior Gregg Jones, the team’s leading scorer (16.9 ppg), connecting on another 54. Frankfort is playing in its third straight Quarterfinal and is led by the standout from last season’s Semifinal run. Senior 6-3 center David Loney sets the pace at 18.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game for the Northwest Conference champ.

Hillman (23-1) vs. Powers North Central (24-0) at Sault Ste. Marie

Hillman has won at least 21 games the last two seasons and three of the last seven, but will play in its first Quarterfinal having lost this season only to Cedarville in the opener Dec. 9. Three players combine to average 50 points per game, led by senior guard Mason VanPamel at 25 ppg. Powers North Central will play in its third straight Quarterfinal and again is a high-powered scoring force – the Jets have put up at least 80 points seven times and more than 70 in 15 games. Sophomore guard Jason Whitens leads four averaging 9.9 ppg or more with 16.4.

PHOTO: Detroit Henry Ford guard James Towns, here against Detroit East English earlier this season, has played a big part in his team’s first Quarterfinal run since 1984. (Photo courtesy of the Detroit Public School League.)

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.)