Breslin Bound: Boys Quarterfinal Preview

March 12, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

After nearly four months, we’ll know by the end of tonight which 16 Michigan boys basketball teams will be “Breslin Bound” this weekend to play for this season’s championships.

We’re already guaranteed at least two new title winners when Saturday’s Finals are done, and there are plenty of storylines as a number of teams reached tonight’s Quarterfinals for the first time in a long time – or first time in their program’s histories.

Our final “Breslin Bound” report of 2018-19 – powered by MI Student Aid – takes a glance at all 16 Quarterfinals, which tip off at 7 p.m. unless noted. All Quarterfinals will be broadcast and viewable with subscription on Come back Wednesday night for a more in-depth look at our 16 finalists as they head into this weekend.


Saginaw (22-3) vs. Howell (19-6) at Grand Blanc

After a rare down season a year ago, Saginaw is back at the Quarterfinals for the fourth time in eight seasons under coach Julian Taylor. Howell, coming off its first Regional title since 2014, follows talented senior guard Josh Palo (17.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists per game).

Ypsilanti Lincoln (20-4) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (20-4) at University of Detroit Mercy, 5:30 p.m.

Lincoln freshman Emoni Bates has been perhaps even more exciting than anticipated, with game-winning shots in both of last week’s Regional wins just the latest highlights as he’s led the team to its first Regional title. King rebounded from two losses to end the regular season to win a District title for the second straight season and first Regional title since 2000.

Detroit U-D Jesuit (23-2) vs. Roseville (20-4) at University of Detroit Mercy, 7:30 p.m.

Jesuit will play in a Quarterfinal for the sixth straight season, this team with senior forward Daniel Friday (16.9) leading an attack with four scorers averaging at least 9.6 ppg. Roseville also lost its final two games of the regular season, but has won all five of its postseason matchups by at least 11 points on the way to its first Regional title since 1952.

East Kentwood (16-9) vs. Okemos (22-2) at Caledonia

Led by junior guard Ja’moni Jones (17.6 ppg), East Kentwood has bounced back from four straight losses to end the regular season and defeated a pair of league champions last week in Muskegon and Hudsonville to reach the Quarterfinals for the first time since 1998. Okemos held off DeWitt for the third time this season in their Regional Final to advance to the final week for the first time since 2012. Senior Evan Thomas (17.3 ppg) is the lead scorer.


Ludington (13-10) vs. Alma (19-3) at Mount Pleasant

Alma stunned previously-undefeated Bridgeport in a Regional Semifinal last week and will play its first Quarterfinal since 1999. Senior guard Camden Sutherland (11.1 ppg) is the high scorer for a balanced attack. Ludington, the Class B runner-up two seasons ago, lost five of its last six regular-season games but rebounded by winning a third straight District title. Senior Joshua Laman (15.8 ppg) leads in most statistical categories.

Grand Rapids South Christian (22-3) vs. Hudsonville Unity Christian (23-2) at Calvin College

The Sailors are coming off their first Regional title since winning the Class B championship in 2005, thanks to a two-point win over Grand Rapids Catholic Central on Thursday. The Sailors have their share of 3-point aces, and senior guards Luke Schrotenboer and Peyton Vis both score between 13-14 ppg. South Christian won its Dec. 21 meeting with Unity Christian 63-61, but the Crusaders are riding high after downing 2018 Class B champ Benton Harbor to win their second Regional title in four seasons. Senior TJ VanKoevering (13.8 ppg) is the leading scorer and rebounder.   

Haslett (20-5) vs. River Rouge (21-2) at Chelsea

Haslett, in its first Quarterfinal since 2006, beat league champions Williamston and Parma Western on the way to the final week. Senior guard Ty Andrades (14.1 ppg, 65 3-pointers) leads four players averaging double-digit scoring. River Rouge, a Class B semifinalist last season, has wins over Ypsilanti Lincoln and Flint Beecher among others. Senior guard Nigel Colvin (13 ppg) leads three scorers averaging in double figures.

Harper Woods Chandler Park (20-0) vs. New Haven (24-1) at Ortonville Brandon

Newly-awarded Mr. Basketball Romeo Weems (27.9 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 4.1 apg, 4.2 spg) is looking to lead New Haven to its third straight Semifinal and second title in three seasons as the Rockets won Class B in 2017. Senior guard Ronald Jeffery III (21.9) also is a major contributor. Chandler Park can claim impressive wins over Detroit Edison, Macomb Dakota, Detroit Henry Ford and Ferndale as it moves from its first Regional title into the final week.


Iron Mountain (25-0) vs. Sanford Meridian (23-1) at Petoskey, 6 p.m.

Iron Mountain won a Regional title for the second straight season and is now a combined 48-2 over the last two. Junior guard Marcus Johnson and sophomore guard Foster Wonders are both scoring just above 23 points per game. Meridian is also playing in a Quarterfinal for the second straight season, entering tonight a combined 44-5 over the last two winters after handing previously-unbeaten Oscoda a 21-point defeat in the Regional Final.

Detroit Edison (18-7) vs. Flint Beecher (23-2) at St. Clair County Community College

This Quarterfinal pits the Class C champions of the last two seasons, both with similar success this season. Reigning champ Edison has wins over Benton Harbor and Canton and is led by senior forward Brian Taylor (16.6 ppg). Beecher has beaten Detroit Renaissance, Grand Blanc and Flint Carman-Ainsworth among others, keyed by junior guard Jalen Terry, and is seeking its fourth MHSAA title in five seasons.   

Hanover-Horton (23-1) vs. Erie-Mason (22-2) at Tecumseh

Hanover-Horton will play in its third Quarterfinal over the last five seasons and first since 2016, with its only defeat this winter to Ohio’s Toledo St. Francis de Sales. Junior Luc Laketa scores 14 ppg to lead five averaging at least 9.3. Erie Mason won its first Regional title since 1973 and has wins over league champs Detroit Loyola and Petersburg Summerfield over the last two weeks. Junior guard Joe Liedel pours in 28 points with 5.1 assists per game.

Pewamo-Westphalia (25-0) vs. Cassopolis (23-1) at Richland Gull Lake

P-W has emerged from winning a league that produced three District champs and then defeated league champions Morley Stanwood and Carson City-Crystal during these playoffs. Senior Andre Smith has helped the Pirates reach the final week for the first time since 2014 by averaging a team-high 14.1 ppg. After going 24-1 a season ago but falling in the Regional Final, Cassopolis has broken through to make its first Quarterfinal since 1989. Senior guard Tyrese Hunt-Thompson scores 22 points per game, and sophomore forward Brayden Saxton adds 18 ppg.


Dollar Bay (20-4) vs. Pellston (23-2) at Escanaba

Dollar Bay finished second in its league but has won 13 of its last 14 games and defeated that league champion, Chassell, on the way to reaching the Quarterfinals again after making the Semifinals in 2018. Junior forward Ashton Janke (16.4) leads three scorers at 12 ppg or higher. Pellston won its first Regional title since 2012, downing previously-unbeaten Brimley in last week’s Regional Semifinal. Senior guard Tanner Byard scores 25.9 ppg and junior guard Blake Cassidy adds 23.

Southfield Christian (18-6) vs. Burton Genesee Christian (18-7) at West Bloomfield, 6 p.m.

Southfield Christian is the reigning Class D champion and has won 16 of its last 17 games. Senior guard Jon Sanders and junior guard Da’Jion Humphrey both average 16.5 points per game. Genesee Christian is coming off its first Regional title since 2005 and is 17-3 after a slow start in December.

Frankfort (19-5) vs. Big Rapids Crossroads (23-1) at Cadillac

Frankfort fell in its regular-season finale and then won its District opener by just two points in overtime, but has surged ahead to claim its first Regional title since 2015. Senior guard Will Newbold and sophomore guard Jack Stefanski both average 14 points per game. Crossroads won its first Regional title last week, with its only defeat of the season all the way back on Dec. 5 to Manistee Catholic Central. Senior guard Britton Angell leads at 26 ppg.

Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (21-3) vs. Bellevue (24-1) at Charlotte

In its third straight season with at least 22 wins, Bellevue has reached the final week for the first time after claiming its first Regional title. Senior guard Wyatt Waterbury scored 16.4 ppg to lead the way. Tri-unity is a regular at this stage but also back after missing out on the Quarterfinals last season after three straight appearances. Senior forward Bennett Sinner and freshman guard Brady Titus both score 12 ppg to lead a balanced effort.

Second Half’s weekly “Breslin Bound” reports are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Student Financial Services Bureau located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information, including various student financial assistance programs to help make college more affordable for Michigan students. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 savings programs (MET/MESP) and eight additional aid programs within its Student Scholarships and Grants division. Click for more information and connect with MI Student Aid on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

PHOTO: Okemos junior Noah Pruitt gets to the basket during the Chiefs’ Regional Final win over DeWitt last week at Holt. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)

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.)