Breslin Bound: Boys Quarterfinal Preview

March 20, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

It's easy to enter this final week of the boys basketball season noting how many of last year's MHSAA champions are still around with possible repeats only three wins away. 

That number is three, by the way: Detroit U-D Jesuit in Class A, Flint Beecher in Class C and Powers North Central in Class D. But isn't it more intriguing that 14 of 24 champions during this decade are still alive – and 14 of 18 in A, C and D, since no matter which team wins Class B, it will be for the first time since at least 1999. 

The final Breslin Bound report – powered by MI Student Aid – looks at all 16 Quarterfinals that will be played Tuesday evening. Click below for brackets:

Class A Class B | Class C | Class D

All games tip off at 7 p.m. unless noted below. All also will be available with subscription for viewing on


West Bloomfield (16-8) vs. Troy (21-4) at University of Detroit Mercy

This will be Troy’s first Quarterfinal since 1989 and West Bloomfield’s since 2003. The Lakers emerged after finishing third in an Oakland Activities Association Red that also included Clarkston (below) and 2016 Class A runner-up North Farmington. Senior guard Kevin McAdoo leads with 24.1 points and 4.1 assists per game. Troy shared the OAA White title and is paced by junior guard Jason Dietz (17.2 ppg).

Clarkston (24-1) vs. Saginaw (21-4) at Davison, 7:30 p.m.

The Wolves won the OAA Red and are led by one of the winningest coaches in MHSAA history in Dan Fife (674-169 over 35 seasons) and one of the state’s top juniors in point guard Foster Loyer (25.1 ppg, 6.4 apg). Saginaw is a frequent qualifier at this stage, with this to be its third Quarterfinal in six seasons. Senior forward Henry Speight stars with 22 points, 14 rebounds and five assists per game for the Saginaw Valley League North champion.

Kalamazoo Central (21-3) vs. Grand Rapids Christian (25-0) at Lansing Eastern

For the second straight game, Grand Rapids Christian will play in arguably the most anticipated statewide. The Eagles feature star forward Xavier Tillman (13.2 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 4.7 apg, 4.1 bpg), but Kalamazoo Central will counter with Mr. Basketball Award winner Isaiah Livers (17.5 ppg, 14 rpg) as it looks to avenge a 53-51 overtime loss to Christian on March 2. The Eagles downed previously-undefeated Muskegon and then needed a buzzer beater against Holland West Ottawa last week.

Romulus (20-4) vs. Detroit U-D Jesuit (20-3) at University of Detroit Mercy, 5 p.m.

Romulus is another regular during the final week, making its fifth Quarterfinal appearance this decade but first since 2014. Junior guard Kaevon Merriweather and senior forwards Dylan Price and Jaren English all average between 16 and 19 points per game. Reigning Class A champion U-D Jesuit has won 12 straight and again has a major post presence in 6-foot-9 Greg Eboigbodin (13.4 points, 13 rebounds per game). 


Detroit Osborn (16-9) vs. New Haven (24-1) at Marysville

Osborn won its second Regional title and will play in a Quarterfinal for the first time since 2007 after finishing fourth in a Detroit Public School League East Division 1 that included Class A powers Detroit Martin Luther King and East English and Class C quarterfinalist Edison Public School Academy. New Haven is playing in a third straight Quarterfinal and seeking to advance for the first time. Senior Eric Williams (20.9 ppg) and sophomore Romeo Weems (18.1 ppg, 12.6 rpg) provide a powerful 1-2 punch.

Benton Harbor (21-3) vs. Spring Lake (19-6) at Caledonia

The Tigers won one of the state’s strongest Regionals to make the final week for the first time since 2014. Freshman 6-6 center Carlos Johnson leads four scoring in double figures at 14.2 points, 14.1 rebounds and 3.3 blocked shots per game. Spring Lake is making its second Quarterfinal appearance in three seasons and also second ever; the Lakers upset Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the Regional Final after finishing third behind the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue champion in their league.

Williamston (21-4) vs. River Rouge (23-1) at Chelsea

This is a rematch from 2016, with Williamston winning last season 53-46. The Hornets are one of the surprise teams still around this week, not because of lack of success but because they eliminated presumed Class B favorite Wyoming Godwin Heights in a Regional Semifinal for the second straight season. Williamston has won 10 of its last 12 games and three of its losses are to Class A schools. River Rouge owns win over Class A quarterfinalists West Bloomfield and Romulus and Class D quarterfinalist Southfield Christian.

Lake Fenton (20-5) vs. Ludington (23-2) at Mount Pleasant

Lake Fenton rolled into its first Quarterfinal after downing 20-win Freeland and 21-win Frankenmuth last week, but maybe those shouldn’t be considered upsets – the Blue Devils tied for second in the Genesee Area Conference Red behind only reigning Class C champion Flint Beecher. Senior forward Jalen Miller leads with 20.9 points per game. Ludington is in its first Quarterfinal since 2009 looking to advance for the first time since 1971. Senior guard Calvin Hackert leads the balanced Lakes 8 Activities Conference champion at 13.3 points per game. 


Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (24-0) vs. Detroit Edison PSA (13-11) at Tecumseh, 6 p.m.

This will be Monroe St. Mary’s fourth Quarterfinal this decade – the Falcons have made the final week every odd year over the last seven, and advanced to the Semifinals in 2013. Senior 6-7 forward Nick Welch leads at 20.7 ppg, and he could face an interesting matchup with 6-8 Deante Johnson. Edison, as noted above, came from the same PSL division at Osborn and lost four of its last five regular-season games – but then upset expected contender Cornerstone Health & Technology in the Regional Final. DEPSA did earn regular-season rematch wins over Detroit King and East English after losing first games to both, and split with Osborn as well.

Flint Beecher (20-5) vs. Beaverton (20-5) at Bay City Central

Beecher has won two straight Class C titles and played in nine straight Quarterfinals, and is led again by standout Malik Ellison (23.8 ppg). The Buccaneers’ only losses since mid-January were to Class A Ypsilanti Community by two and Class B quarterfinalist New Haven in overtime. Beaverton has enjoyed a history-making winter as coach Roy Johnston took over the MHSAA lead for career wins, and the Beavers have bounced back from a four-game losing streak in early February to make their first Quarterfinal since 2013. Johnston's grandson Carter leads with 23.7 ppg.

Kalamazoo Christian (18-7) vs. Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (19-5) at Holland West Ottawa, 7:30 p.m.

This is another matchup of schools advancing for the first time in at least a little while; Covenant Christian won its first Regional since 1994 in Class D, and Kalamazoo Christian advanced to this week for the first time since 2008. Senior guard Alex Visser and junior forward Jordan Katje both score 11 points per game to lead Kalamazoo Christian, while junior forward Carson Meulenberg paces Covenant at 13.4 ppg.

Manton (20-4) vs. Negaunee (20-4) at Petoskey

Manton has its best record in at least 11 seasons to go along with its first Regional title since 1998. Three players have made at least 48 3-pointers this season, paced by leading scorer Jayden Perry (16 ppg) with 53. In addition to upsetting formerly undefeated McBain in the District, Manton has a win over Beaverton. Negaunee is another frequent quarterfinalist, this being its fifth time in the final week this decade. The Miners hope to take the next step for the third time of this run led by big-time scorers Dre’ Tuominen (20.4 ppg) and Trent Bell (19.7), who both make more than 50 percent of their shots from the field.  


Hillman (24-1) vs. Powers North Central (25-0) at Sault Ste. Marie

These two met in a 2015 Quarterfinal, two games before North Central claimed its first Class D title of this recent run, and they meet again with the Jets two wins from a third straight and carrying the nation’s longest active winning streak of 80 victories. Jason Whitens (22.6 ppg) and Dawson Bilski (19.7) have starred throughout the run and are part of a talented senior class finishing things up. But Hillman has an excellent senior as well in Gunnar Libby, who leads his team with 19.1 points and 5.5 assists per game.  

Southfield Christian (20-5) vs. Fowler (17-7) at Imlay City, 7:30 p.m.

After two seasons – and two District titles – in Class C, Southfield Christian is back in Class D and seeking its fourth title this decade. Two of its losses were to quarterfinalists U-D Jesuit and River Rouge, and it beat West Bloomfield. Junior guard Bryce Washington leads four averaging in double figures with 18.5 ppg. Fowler is back in the Quarterfinals for the first time since finishing off five straight appearances in 2005, and it owns a win this season over Lansing Christian. Senior 6-7 center Jeremy Pung is a force, averaging 18 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.

Benton Harbor Dream Academy (11-7) vs. Lansing Christian (18-6) at Kalamazoo Loy Norrix

Dream Academy has won 10 of its last 12 games, avenging its loss to St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic during that run with an overtime win over the Lakers in the District Final. Lansing Christian last made a Quarterfinal (and then Semifinal) in 2013, and after losing three of its final four regular-season games has bounced back with four double-digit wins in the playoffs. Seniors Matt Havey and Preston Granger average 17.9 and 15.4 ppg, respectively, for the Pilgrims.

Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (16-8) vs. Buckley (24-0) at Cadillac

Tri-Unity is back in the Quarterfinals for the third straight season and fifth this decade, seeking its first championship since 2011. Four seniors start for a balanced attack; forward Braydon Sherrod and guard Collin Rosendall top the scoring at 10.2 and 10.9 ppg, respectively. Buckley has twice made Quarterfinals, in 1998 and 2010, and is looking to advance for the first time. Junior Denver Cade scores a team-high 21 ppg for a group that’s won all but two games this season by double digits – with a victory over Class C quarterfinalist Manton one of the two by fewer than 10 points.

PHOTO: Spring Lake's Cameron Ball (24) lays up a shot this season against Grand Haven. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)

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.)