Breslin Bound: Boys Report Post-Break

January 3, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This week, Michigan’s high school boys basketball teams will begin focusing most of their energies on winning league championships and doing their best against competition closest to home.

But before we dive in to that always-intense chapter of each season, our Breslin Bound report – powered by MI Student Aid – reviews the best from two weeks of holiday break, including matchups of some expected MHSAA title contenders in Class A and B.

Week in Review

The countdown of holiday break's five most intriguing results:

1. Detroit U-D Jesuit 69, Macomb Dakota 61 – Dakota was missing a standout and lost another near the end of this one, but regardless this rematch of last season’s Class A Semifinal finished with the Cubs on top while sandwiched between their overtime losses to Flint Beecher and Indianapolis Lawrence North (Ind.).

2. North Farmington 53, Detroit Henry Ford 49 – The Raiders bounced back from three losses to open this season, including a 65-58 defeat to Farmington, to beat Dearborn Divine Child and then the Class B reigning champ at the Motor City Roundball Classic.

3. McBain 73, Boyne City 62 – In a matchup of expected Class C contenders from the northern Lower Peninsula, McBain emerged with a fourth double-digit win in four tries this winter while handing Boyne City its first loss.

4. Wyoming Godwin Heights 69, Wayland 67 – They are in different Districts this season after meeting in the first round a year ago, and both could emerge as Class B contenders after meeting in this Cornerstone Invitational title game.  

5. Frankfort 72, Traverse City St. Francis 65 – The Panthers avenged one of only two regular-season losses from last season, when they fell to St. Francis 69-68.

Watch List

With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each class making sparks:


Detroit East English (5-0) – The Bulldogs may have graduated a Mr. Basketball finalist off last season’s 17-win team, but they likely have another and could finish even better this winter with wins so far over Flint Beecher, Macomb Dakota and most recently Wayne Memorial 92-77.

Battle Creek Central (5-1) – That lone loss came early to Kalamazoo Central, and Battle Creek Central has stormed back with the latest a sweep at its holiday tournament, 60-50 over Otsego and 61-46 over Muskegon Heights Academy.


St. Clair (5-0) – The Saints, winners of 12 and 14 games, respectively, over the last two seasons, downed St. Clair Shores Lakeview 54-53 in overtime and then host Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 58-57 at the latter’s holiday tournament to finish off 2016.

Wyoming Lee (5-0) – A 3-17 finisher just last season, Lee is in the midst of a sizable turnaround highlighted over the break by wins over Gobles (in overtime) and host Allegan to win the Tigers’ holiday tournament.


Harbor Springs (3-0) – After also going only 3-17 a year ago, Harbor Springs has equaled that win total while handing the only losses this season to Bellaire (40-37) and Pickford (67-65).

Michigan Center (6-0) – The Cardinals will embark next on at least matching last season’s shared title in the Cascades Conference, and will do so after dominating Williamston’s holiday event with wins over Dansville (66-47) and Class A DeWitt (86-75).


Bark River-Harris (4-0) – Eventually, the Broncos will get to test themselves against Powers North Central (Jan. 27) in the Skyline Central Conference West. So far, they look good to top last season’s 10-11 finish.  

Frankfort (3-0) – Expectations are high as always coming off a second straight Northwest Conference title and fourth straight season with 20 or more wins – and so far so good; see note above on avenging last season’s loss to Traverse City St. Francis.

Can't-Miss Contests

Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up: 

Tuesday – Clarkston (5-0) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (6-0) – The Wolves have earned a reputation as Class A contender with another strong start, and Carman-Ainsworth could cement that status as well with a win.

Tuesday – Maple City Glen Lake (3-0) at Elk Rapids (5-0) – In addition to both being undefeated this week, Glen Lake beat Elk Rapids twice last season including in the District.

Friday – Beaverton (4-1) at Clare (3-1) – Although both have a loss, both also are undefeated in early Jack Pine Conference play; Beaverton’s only defeat was in its last game, to Class A Midland Dow by two.

Friday – Detroit U-D Jesuit (4-2) at Romulus (2-1) – Another week, another impressive foe lined up for reigning Class A champion Jesuit; Romulus’ lone loss was by six to Clarkston.

Friday – Holt (3-2) at Okemos (3-1) – This longtime rivalry means something again, as both are seeking to rise in a Capital Area Activities Conference Blue that also features East Lansing, Lansing Everett and Jackson.

PHOTO: Muskegon pushes the ball upcourt during a 68-45 win over East Kentwood during the Muskegon Hall of Fame Classic on Dec. 28 at Reeths-Puffer High School. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)

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.)