Breslin Bound: Boys Regional Preview

March 14, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The MHSAA Boys Basketball Tournament finished up its first week Friday with many of the expected contenders moving on – but quite a few surprises as well. 

See below for four teams from each class that jumped out from Districts, with Regionals tipping off tonight. Click for brackets for all 32 and stay with Score Center tonight for scores and updated matchups.

Class A

Belleville (19-4) – The Tigers have won eight games straight and improved seven wins from a year ago, and had an eventful District week. In the Semifinal, Belleville beat Romulus, the team with which it shared the Western Wayne Athletic Conference Blue title, and then downed Westland John Glenn in overtime in the Final.

Detroit Western International (17-3) – The reigning Class A champion has had a solid season, finishing second in the Detroit Public School League West Division 1. But the biggest highlights came last week with a 77-76 overtime win over PSL Tournament champion Detroit East English, followed by a 15-point District Final win over 14-win Martin Luther King. 
Lowell (18-5) – Since winning three games in 2010-11, the Red Arrows have improved their win total every season of the last five and are four victories better than a season ago. Lowell added a couple top teams from the east side of the state to the schedule this winter and lost locally only to Grand Rapids Christian twice and Wyoming Godwin Heights. 
Roseville (17-5) – The Panthers improved to five wins better than a season ago, adding a District title to a runner-up finish in the Macomb Area Conference White. They've won 10 of their last 12 games. 

Class B

Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (12-11) – The Fighting Irish entered the tournament two games below .500 but emerged on the plus side thanks in part to a 43-41 upset of Chelsea in the District Final. Chelsea finished 16-6.

Detroit Osborn (13-10) – The Knights again proved the tough competition in the Public School League is a good primer for the postseason, winning their second straight District title despite finishing fifth in the PSL East Division 1 standings and going 2-7 in January. 
Flint Northwestern (12-11) – The Wildcats finished only fifth in the Saginaw Valley League South but have won five straight and avenged last season’s District loss, downing Frankenmuth 57-52 in this year’s Final. Frankenmuth finished 20-3.
Stockbridge (17-5) – The Panthers split with Leslie during the regular season but still finished a game behind the Blackhawks and second in the final Greater Lansing Activities Conference standings. But Stockbridge beat Leslie (20-3) in the District Final. 

Class C

Beaverton (19-1) – Bad weather kept Beaverton from getting in its full 20 regular-season games, but the Beavers did manage to extend their Jack Pine Conference winning streak to 34 with a second straight league title. They beat two league foes to win the District as well. 

Constantine (14-9) – The Falcons dropped their final two regular-season games and finished only fourth in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley. But they beat third-place Schoolcraft on the way to a second-straight District title and after losing to the Eagles only four days before.
Grandville Calvin Christian (17-4) – The Squires took a couple of late losses prepping for the postseason with a final run that included reigning Class C runner-up NorthPointe Christian, reigning Class B champion Godwin Heights, plus 17-win Allendale and 15-win Covenant Christian. But those challenges paid off as Calvin Christian downed Covenant Christian 64-50 to start last week and then NorthPointe 52-45 in the District Final. 
Ishpeming Westwood (10-12) – The final two weeks of the regular season included four losses over its final five games, but Westwood was a different team once the District began. The Patriots started with a win over Manistique – which they had lost to Feb. 17 – and finished with a 51-47 win over rival Ishpeming after falling to the 16-win Hematites twice in league play. 

Class D

AuGres-Sims (11-9) – The Wolverines were another team that entered the postseason on a bit of a stumble, having lost four of six after locking down second place in the North Star League Little Dipper division. But they beat champion Fairview by 12 to open last week and then Mio 62-59 in the Final.
Fulton (16-6) – A five-point loss to Class C Lakeview in the regular-season finale is the only blemish for the Pirates over their last eight games. They clinched the District title with a 55-42 win over league rival and 13-win Fowler. 
Novi Franklin Road Christian (16-6) – Annual contender Southfield Christian is the team most pay attention to from the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference, either division. But Blue runner-up Franklin Road Christian has won eight of nine to continue a seven-win improvement from a season ago. 
Rock Mid-Peninsula (13-9) – The Wolverines won only three games each of the last two seasons, but added a District title to this winter of improvement to go with the Skyline Central Conference East championship. 

PHOTO: Ithaca repeated as a District champion last week, downing Sanford Meridian in a Class C Final. (Click to see more at

Howardsville Christian Striving to Transfer Fall Successes to Basketball Court

By Scott Hassinger
Special for

November 28, 2023

HOWARDSVILLE - There is a sign that hangs inside Howardsville Christian School's tiny gymnasium that accurately depicts the mission for the Eagles during the 2023-24 boys basketball season.

Southwest CorridorIt reads "In Jesus' name we play."

Ken Sparks and the eight players on his varsity basketball roster have challenged themselves to help one another understand what it means to give their season to  God.

"My goal is to help these boys find gratitude in playing for a greater power than themselves," said Sparks, a varsity standout himself at Howardsville from 1996-2000, member of the 1,000-point club and an honorable mention all-stater his senior year.

Nestled on the border between St. Joseph and Cass counties along Bent Road, Howardsville Christian, a Division 4 school for its sports with fewer than 80 students, has enjoyed a rich tradition of spiritual learning both in the classroom and on the court and playing fields.

The contribution of many talented athletes from several families has been instrumental in Howardsville's athletic success for years, especially this school year.

Howardsville won District titles this fall in boys soccer and girls volleyball. Now the Eagles hope to carry that momentum over to the basketball court.

With four starters returning, Sparks is looking for Howardsville’s boys team to battle for supremacy in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph League and improve on a 13-10 record from last season. The Eagles finished 7-7 in the league last winter and endured a disappointing District Semifinal loss to Marcellus. Howardsville Christian had won its District the season in 2021.

"We competed well with all the teams on our schedule and lost to some teams we shouldn't have," Sparks said. "There are eight teams in our conference, and this season we need to beat Benton Harbor Countryside to be the top team. It's been a good league for us."

Senior twin brothers Colin and Dylan Muldoon return for Howardsville, along with junior cousin Kaden Sparks, son of the head coach, and junior John Paul Rose.

The Muldoon brothers both are beginning their third year as varsity starters.

"Working together as a team is something we really want to do well. A lot of teams set a goal of winning Districts. The last two years we've fallen short of that goal. It's definitely something we want to achieve this year," Colin Muldoon said.

Dylan Muldoon echoed that sentiment.

"Our success in soccer makes us want to attain the same goals in basketball. We know we are capable of reaching those, so I think it makes us want to pull things together," Dylan Muldoon said. "There's a lot of long-distance running in soccer, but there's also a lot of quickness and turning in basketball, especially when you're guarding or driving around someone. You just have to be quick."

Eagles varsity boys basketball coach Ken Sparks, far left, is pictured by the school's trophy case with his four returning starters Colin Muldoon, Dylan Muldoon, Kaden Sparks and John Paul Rose. Kaden Sparks, another three-year starter, will be Howardsville's best shooting guard.

"Winning Districts is achievable. We have to learn to work together. I played summer ball, and the biggest takeaway is that it taught me that I have to always give 100-percent effort out there. We had a great soccer season, and It’s taught us a lot about accountability," Kaden Sparks said.

Rose will be Howardsville Christian's starting point guard. He has been a starter since his freshman year, along with Kaden Sparks.

"The team chemistry and communication we had in soccer easily transfers over to basketball. As our point guard, it's important for me to try to get the ball to other guys who have open looks," Rose said. "I want to be more aggressive defensively, push the ball up the floor more and increase my scoring."

In addition, Ken Sparks believes the physicality a majority of his team learned from soccer will be a big benefit on the basketball floor.

"You build up your physicality from playing soccer with having to always body up. Watching them play sometimes hurts me, but that's what I want them to do in basketball. It helps them to want to draw contact and be physical on the floor," Ken Sparks said.

The lack of upperclassmen on Howardsville's varsity the last couple of years gave Rose and Kaden Sparks an immediate opportunity to play as freshmen.

"The fact John Paul and Kaden had that early chance at the varsity level is really paying off now,” Ken Sparks added. “Kaden is an excellent shooter. I want him to get the confidence that I had when I was in high school. He tends to be a little more passive on the floor than I like, but he's finally getting that aggressive nature that you need offensively.”

Kaden, Colin Muldoon and Rose all averaged double-digit scoring last season, while Dylan Muldoon is the Eagles' best defensive player. The Muldoon brothers will serve as Howardsville's team captains.

"Kaden is very self-motivated to become a better basketball player. His goal is to be the best player that he can be," Ken Sparks said. "John Paul is explosive and has really refined his jump shot to where he can be a scoring threat. He sees the floor very well and can really push the ball up the floor without turning it over. We're going to see big strides from him because of his determination and drive.

"Colin is a great overall player. He's a threat from the outside and can score inside with his height as well. If we're going to be successful, he and Dylan have to bring the same drive that John Paul and Kaden bring to the court.”

"I've coached all of the guys on our team for the last three seasons except one,” Sparks added. “We talk about being well-rounded. These guys are the best academically and spiritual leaders in our school."

Howardsville Christian’s most well-known alumni is Dylan Jergens, the third-leading scorer in state history with 2,782 career points.

The boys soccer and girls volleyball teams earned District titles during the fall. (During the fall soccer season, the Muldoons, Kaden Sparks and Rose helped Howardsville win a second-straight District title. The Eagles then lost 5-0 in the Regional Semifinal to eventual Division 4 champion Muskegon Western Michigan Christian. Both Muldoons, Kaden Sparks and Rose were named to the first-team all-BCS and District soccer squads.

The Muldoons were the two main catalysts in the Eagles' soccer run, along with Lukas Krueger. Dylan Muldoon had 28 goals and nine assists, while Colin Muldoon posted 14 goals and eight assists. Krueger added 19 goals to go with 16 assists. Kaden Sparks had five goals and four assists, and Rose added three goals and three assists.

Steve Muldoon, Colin and Dylan's father and Howardsville's head boys soccer coach, sees many correlations between soccer and basketball that will bring the Eagles success in hoops this winter.

"Communication is key. A team that doesn't talk on the field/court isn't going to win. They learn how to correct and encourage one another to deal with problems without getting too negative," Steve Muldoon said. "Individually, they learn how to anticipate. There isn't much difference between anticipating a pass and stepping in front of it in soccer or basketball or making a hard run down the court/field to get open for a layup/counterattack. They learn how to react and make the correct decision under pressure. The skills needed to do it in soccer and basketball are different, but most of it is mental and that carries over."

Determination was another big factor for Howardsville's soccer success this fall.

"We beat Lansing Christian this fall in a weekend soccer tournament and they are a much bigger and physical team than us, but we managed to beat them," Colin Muldoon said. "That win gave us a lot of confidence for the remainder of the season that we could beat anyone."


The family dynamic doesn't stop with Howardsville's boys basketball team.

Senior Kyla Sparks, Ken's daughter and Kaden's older sister, is one of three cousins on the roster for a Howardsville girls team that finished 12-11 last year. All five starters are back for that Eagles team as well.

"As a team, we want to improve on last year's record. With all our starters back, we feel we have a good shot to finish at the top of both our conference and District. Most of our basketball team also played volleyball this fall, and we view us all as family," Kyla Sparks said. "Being able to play with my two cousins makes good lifelong memories."

Kyla Sparks, who averaged 12 points per game her junior year, starts with sophomore cousins Kelsie Muldoon and Kate Evans. Those three also started on the varsity volleyball team that captured its first District title since 1997.

Coincidently, the mothers of Kyla, Kelsie and Kate were all on the 1997 District champion volleyball team.

Scott HassingerScott Hassinger is a contributing sportswriter for Leader Publications and previously served as the sports editor for the Three Rivers Commercial-News from 1994-2022. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Colin Muldoon drives to the basket against his twin brother Dylan Muldoon during recent Howardsville Christian boys basketball practice. (Middle) Eagles varsity boys basketball coach Ken Sparks, far left, is pictured by the school's trophy case with his four returning starters Colin Muldoon, Dylan Muldoon, Kaden Sparks and John Paul Rose. (Below) The boys soccer and girls volleyball teams earned District titles during the fall. (Top and middle photos by Scott Hassinger. District championship photos courtesy of Howardsville Christian School.)