Breslin Bound: Boys Report Post-Break

January 8, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The holiday break across our state is over, and the drive toward March will click into a second gear as most teams this week jump into the heart of league play.

Today’s Breslin Bound – powered my MI Student Aid – takes a look at a number of contenders that made impressive strides over the last three weeks while classes were out of session, plus gets us back into the regular swing with a look at five games of special note coming up.

These reports are based on results and schedules posted for each school at – to offer corrections, email me at [email protected]

Week in Review

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

1. Detroit East English 80, Clarkston 71 – East English’s David DeJulius scored 42 points at North Farmington’s Holiday Extravaganza as his team handed reigning Class A champion Clarkston its only loss this season.

2. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 72, Wyoming Godwin Heights 68 (OT) – After two losses to open this season, Forest Hills Central has strung together three nice wins with this one over the previously-unbeaten Wolverines at Cornerstone’s tournament the most impressive.

3. Ann Arbor Skyline 74, Belleville 60 – Skyline emerged from a tough holiday schedule still undefeated and having handed possible Class A contender Belleville its third loss.

4. Bridgeport 68, Frankenmuth 54 – The first round between these Class B powers went Bridgeport’s way after last season’s split led to the rivals sharing the Tri-Valley Conference East title while finishing a combined 40-6 overall.

5. River Rouge 52, West Bloomfield 50 (OT) – The Panthers’ perfect start has included two overtime wins including this one over a Lakers team that has two two-point losses and made the Class A Semifinals a year ago.

Watch List

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


Grand Haven (7-1) – The Buccaneers also opened 7-1 last season on the way to finishing 18-5, but this start is more impressive. The only loss was by three in double overtime to Spring Lake, which won 19 games last season. And the wins have included Grand Haven’s first over Muskegon since 2012.

Hazel Park (7-0) – There may not be another team that has started more impressively. Coming off 15-8 last season, the Vikings have double-digit wins against Class A powers Detroit East English and U-D Jesuit, an overtime win over Class B standout Detroit Henry Ford and a six-point win over possible Class C contenders Detroit Edison Public School Academy and Pershing (plus another double-digit win over Loyola).


Hillsdale (6-1) – Since opening with a loss to Hanover-Horton, Hillsdale has been rolling. The Hornets followed up a Pat Patterson Tournament championship at Hillsdale College with a 61-44 revenge victory over Onsted – which abruptly ended Hillsdale’s 2016-17 at 21-1 with an upset during last year’s District.

Otsego (5-1) – A slow start last season contributed to an 11-11 finish, but the outlook is better this winter. Otsego’s only loss was to Dowagiac by six during the first week, and the Bulldogs closed December by handing Marshall its only defeat, 80-60.


Detroit Edison Public School Academy (3-3) – DEPSA plays only a few schools its size as part of the Detroit Public School League, and similar experience paid off with a run to the MHSAA Semifinals last season. The wins this winter are over Belleville, Saginaw Arthur Hill and Southfield Christian, and the losses just as impressively have come against U-D Jesuit, Detroit Martin Luther King and Hazel Park.

Kalamazoo Hackett (7-0) – The Irish are another team surely fueled by an early exit last season; they were 19-1 when they fell to Kalamazoo Christian in their first District game. Hackett has a four-point win over reigning Class D runner-up Buckley and gets Christian for the first time this season Friday.


Hillman (6-0) – An MHSAA quarterfinalist last season, Hillman is up to its usual level of regular-season dominance. The Tigers have won all of their games by at least 14 points, with an 18-pointer over Cedarville (5-2) looking like the best so far.

Kingston (6-0) – The Cardinals are halfway to equaling last season’s 12-9 finish and survived their only single-digit scare to win by six over Sandusky on Dec. 20. Kingston followed that with 13 and 28-point wins to claim the Brown City Invitational title.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Maple City Glen Lake (4-0) at Buckley (2-2) – Reigning Northwest Conference champion Buckley is in third starting the week but gets the two first-place teams back-to-back, Glen Lake followed by also-undefeated Frankfort on Thursday.

Friday – Detroit East English (5-2) at Detroit Edison PSA (3-3) – The PSL East Division 1 is loaded with potential statewide contenders, and these are two with high hopes.

Friday – Canton (7-0) at Wayne Memorial (5-1) – These two lead the Kensington Lakes Activities Association Black, with Wayne’s opening loss to Clarkston the only defeat between them.

Friday – Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (6-0) at Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (5-1) – This will be a major test for the Grand Rapids area’s small-school powers.

Friday – Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (6-1) at Detroit U-D Jesuit (5-2) – This should prove key again as the Eaglets chase the reigning Detroit Catholic League Central champ Cubs.

PHOTO: Bridgeport applies defensive pressure during its win over rival Frankenmuth on Friday. (Click for more from

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.)