Breslin Bound: Boys Regional Preview

March 13, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Only 128 teams remain in the MHSAA Boys Basketball Tournament – and seven have yet to taste defeat this season.

That’s guaranteed to change beginning with tonight’s Regional Semifinals, where Class A and C will enjoy matchups of teams that have achieved perfection to this point this winter. Our Breslin Bound report – powered my MI Student Aid – looks more closely at those sections of the bracket as we glance at three Regionals in each class that jump off the screen most this week.

Click to check out all Regional brackets for every class: Class A | Class B | Class C | Class D 

Week in Review

The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:

1. Manton 54, McBain 48 – McBain was undefeated and arguably the favorite to win all of Class C, and had beaten Manton by 16 on Feb. 22.

2. Frankenmuth 58, Bridgeport 49 – The “tie-breaker” between Tri-Valley Conference East co-champions went to the Eagles in this Class B District Final.

3. Detroit Cass Tech 45, Detroit Martin Luther King 43 – This rematch of the Detroit Public School League championship game again went Cass Tech’s way in Class A.

4. Flushing 39, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 36 – The Raiders went on to win the Class A District after opening with this victory over the Cavaliers, who had beaten Flushing by three a week earlier.

5. Onsted 52, Hillsdale 45 – Onsted went on to fall to Chelsea 57-45 in their Class B District Final, but on the way handed Hillsdale its first and only loss after falling to the Hornets in overtime and by two during the regular season.

Regionals at a Glance

These could be among our most competitive brackets. Host sites are in bold:


Dearborn Fordson
Dearborn Fordson (11-12), Detroit Cass Tech (18-4), Detroit U-D Jesuit (18-3), Westland John Glenn (20-3). 

There’s a chance for a meeting of champions of the Detroit area’s two most prestigious leagues; Cass Tech opens against Fordson, while Catholic League A-B winner and reigning Class A champion U-D Jesuit faces John Glenn in the other Semifinal. John Glenn just missed being a champion as well, finishing second in its division of the Kensington Lakes Activities Conference and runner-up in the Kensington Conference tournament. Fordson is the potential spoiler and has won seven of its last nine. Jesuit did beat Cass Tech 65-53 in an Operation Friendship game just two weeks ago.

Grand Haven
Grand Rapids Christian (23-0), Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (16-7), Holland West Ottawa (22-1), Muskegon (23-0). 

Tonight’s second Semifinal pits the undefeated Eagles and Big Reds, arguably the most highly-anticipated matchup in Michigan this week. And that very well could work to the advantage of the teams on the other side of the bracket; Holland West Ottawa’s only loss this season was by eight to Grand Rapids Christian on Dec. 28, and Forest Hills Northern is riding high after a one-point upset last week of rival Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, which won their Ottawa-Kent Conference White.

Richland Gull Lake
Battle Creek Central (19-3), East Lansing (23-0), Holt (19-4), Kalamazoo Central (19-3). 

East Lansing got past last season’s nemesis, Lansing Everett, with a five-point win in the District Final, but the living won’t be easy this week. Two of Battle Creek Central’s losses were to rival Kalamazoo Central, and the Bearcats have won 13 of their last 14 games. The Maroon Giants came within a basket of downing undefeated Grand Rapids Christian in their regular-season finale two weeks ago and feature Mr. Basketball Award finalist Isaiah Livers. But Holt won’t be an easy out – especially with motivation to see East Lansing again after falling to the Trojans by only four and five in league play this winter.


Battle Creek Harper Creek (15-8), Benton Harbor (19-3), Three Rivers (15-7), Wayland (20-3). 

The Tigers closed the regular season with two losses over three games, but by a combined three points after suffering their only other defeat in overtime. (And all three of those losses were to Class A teams.) Harper Creek, tonight’s opponent, beat one of those three that downed Benton Harbor – Sturgis, by eight – and has won 11 of its last 12 after starting the streak against Three Rivers. Three Rivers happens to be on the other side of this bracket, the Wolverine Conference South champion which advanced with two four-point wins in its District. Wayland might be the contender getting talked about least, so keep an eye out; its three losses were twice to Grand Rapids Christian and once, by only two, to one-loss Wyoming Godwin Heights.

Alma (17-6), Frankenmuth (20-2), Freeland (20-2), Lake Fenton (17-6).

Both sides of this bracket pit a 20-2 team vs. a 17-6 opponent tonight. Of the 17-6 pair, Alma finished second to Freeland in the Tri-Valley Conference Central but has won nine of its last 10 since an overtime defeat to the Falcons. Lake Fenton similarly has won 10 straight and tied for second in the Genesee Area Conference Red behind Class C power Flint Beecher. Freeland has won 11 straight since dropping back-to-back games in late January. And Frankenmuth has won 20 of its last 21, including by 19 over Alma midseason.

North Branch
Almont (20-3), Flint Northwestern (11-11), New Haven (22-1), Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (14-9). 

New Haven has seemed rather unstoppable and is pursuing a third straight Regional title. But tonight’s opponent Flint Northwestern is playing with major motivation as this could be the final run for the longtime hoops power – the Wildcats won their District games by three and then in overtime, respectively. On the other side of the bracket, Almont is a great story coming from 6-15 last season to win the Blue Water Area Conference title and 12 straight games heading into this week. Notre Dame Prep got hot at the right time, winning its District after dropping three of four to close the regular season.


Cassopolis (18-4), Kalamazoo Christian (16-7), Quincy (19-4), Schoolcraft (22-1).

Cassopolis, Quincy and Schoolcraft all won league titles this season, and Christian finished third in Schoolcraft’s league, the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley. Those two face off again tonight, with Schoolcraft winning the previous two meetings first by 26 but then only two on Feb. 17. Quincy shared the Big 8 Conference title with 14 wins over its last 15 games since dropping its only defeat in the league. Cassopolis, the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Red winner, has won 10 of its last 11 and is battle-tested after needing double overtime twice last week to advance.

Houghton Lake
Boyne City (16-7), Manton (18-4), Maple City Glen Lake (18-4), Whittemore-Prescott (15-6).

Manton finished second in the Highland Conference, but might be the favorite to win its first Regional since 1998 after handing league champion and previously-undefeated McBain its first and only loss in the District Final. Glen Lake similarly finished runner-up to an undefeated team (Buckley) in the Northwest Conference and has won 13 of its last 15. Boyne City won its third straight District title and has found its stride again after opening this season 8-1 but running into a tough stretch midway through. Whittemore-Prescott is 8-1 over its last nine and has now improved from six to 11 to 15 victories over the last three seasons.

Adrian Madison (15-8), Ann Arbor Greenhills (15-7), Michigan Center (23-0), Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (22-0). 

Tonight’s first Semifinal pits the undefeated teams. Michigan Center is continuing a run that hasn’t seen any opponent get closer than 11 points this season despite playing 19 and 16-game winners during last week's District. St. Mary has had only one single-digit game, an overtime win over Class B Notre Dame Prep on Jan. 6, and is playing for its fourth Regional title in six seasons. The only Regional championship between Madison and Greenhills ever was won by Greenhills in 1996, no doubt adding to the excitement of this week for both. Madison avenged two earlier losses by beating previously-undefeated Sand Creek to open its District title run, while Greenhills has won nine of its last 12 games and claimed all three of its District games by at least 14 points.


Big Rapids Crossroads Academy
Baldwin (20-1), Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (14-9), Muskegon Catholic Central (10-12), Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (14-8). 

It’s hard to believe Baldwin hasn’t won a Regional title since 1984, but that could change this week as the team’s only loss this season was by two to West Michigan D League co-runner-up Crossroads on Jan. 12. Only two other opponents got within single digits of the Panthers this winter. MCC’s record is a little deceiving because it plays in a Lakes 8 Conference with all Class B and C teams and lost seven of eight games to close the regular season before dominating its District. As noted last week, Tri-unity made the Class D Semifinals last season and its record also is deceiving with more than half of its games against larger opponents. Same with Sacred Heart, which won all of its District games by double digits and has 11 wins over its last 14 after a rough first two months.

St. Ignace
Cedarville (16-6), Engadine (12-10), Hillman (22-1), Pellston (16-6). 

Hillman didn’t appear too stung last week after suffering its only loss by three two weeks ago to Lincoln Alcona. But next up is opening-night opponent Cedarville, which Hillman beat by 17 all the way back on Dec. 6; the Trojans went on to finish second in the Eastern Upper Peninsula Athletic Conference and then downed league champion Pickford by 24 in their District Final. Pellston also was a league runner-up, to Bellaire in the Ski Valley Conference, quite a jump after finishing 6-16 a season ago. Engadine’s comeback has been arguably more substantial; the Eagles are still alive after going just 2-19 last winter.

Traverse City
Bellaire (22-1), Buckley (22-0), Hale (17-6), Suttons Bay (13-10). 

While this would seem to line up a Buckley/Bellaire matchup in the championship game, it’s not that easy. Yes, Bellaire hasn’t lost since opening night (by three to Harbor Springs). But Suttons Bay stunned Frankfort in their District Final and could be capable of giving the Eagles a close game as well. Buckley hasn’t lost since last season’s Regional Final against Bellaire, but Hale has won 10 of 12 and also is a league champion having won the North Star League Little Dipper title – after going just 7-12 last season.

PHOTO: Flint Northwestern got past Goodrich 76-70 in overtime Friday to win their Class B District. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)

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.)