Breslin Bound: Boys Report Post-Break

January 7, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The first full week of January means changing lanes for the high school boys basketball season, with many of the mega nonleague matchups in the rear-view mirror and league championship chases up ahead.

But first we have a few weeks of catching up to do after another highlight-filled holiday break showed us a few more contenders to keep an eye on as we settle into the local portion of our annual winter hoops run.

Breslin Bound is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at To offer corrections or fill in scores we’re missing, email me at [email protected].

Week in Review

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

1. Canton 64, Grand Rapids Catholic Central 57 – The Winter Jam at Lawrence Tech was filled with great matchups, but Canton’s win over the reigning Class B runner-up – GRCC’s lone defeat – was the most impressive.

2. Benton Harbor 79, Saginaw 70 – These two are MHSAA championship contenders most seasons, and the Tigers moved to 10-0 with this win at Grand Blanc’s GottaGetIt Classic as they continue to build on last year’s Class B title.

3. Flint Beecher 57, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 50 – The Division 3 Bucs are up to 8-0 this winter after winning a rare matchup with this one of their Division 1 neighbors.

4. Detroit Martin Luther King 45, Kalamazoo Central 43 – The Crusaders came up with arguably their best win of a great start by handing the Maroon Giants their lone defeat during Friday’s Muskegon Classic.

5. Muskegon 55, East Kentwood 53 – The Big Reds are 3-2 while playing another tough early slate, and this win over the Falcons at the Hall of Fame Classic has been the highlight.

Watch List

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


• Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (7-1) – The Rockets are climbing after finishing 10-12 and tying for fifth in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Black a year ago and winning just three games total in 2016-17. Annual league favorite Muskegon awaits, of course. But Reeths-Puffer has looked up to the task so far with wins over Ludington and Holland West Ottawa and the only defeat by five Dec. 7 to one-loss Zeeland West.

• Saginaw Heritage (5-1) – Since opening with a loss to still-undefeated Sanford Meridian, the Hawks also are perfect – and compared to a 3-4 start last season. They started the new year with a 64-53 win over Frankenmuth as they seek to build on last season’s 14-7 finish.


• Flat Rock (7-1) – Just 6-15 two seasons ago, Flat Rock improved to 18-6 and second in the Huron League last winter and last week edged Grosse Ile 42-40 after splitting with the Red Devils in 2017-18. Flat Rock’s only loss this season came by four Dec. 11 to Temperance Bedford. On Friday, the Rams get the first of two opportunities against reigning league champ Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central after being swept by the Falcons last season.

• Holland Christian (6-0) – The Maroons jumped 10 wins last season to finish 14-8 and second in the O-K Green, and might be starting on another leap. Holland Christian handed Maple City Glen Lake its only loss this season, 48-44 on Dec. 28 at the Lakeshore Cup at Grand Haven, and then downed Petoskey 66-59 the next day. Up next is reigning O-K Green champ Hudsonville Unity Christian, which defeated the Maroons three times last season.


• Kalamazoo Hackett (6-1) – The Irish bounced back from their only loss, to Division 1 Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, by handing Schoolcraft a 72-56 defeat Dec. 18. That win has Hackett just ahead of Schoolcraft in first place in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley standings after the Irish finished second to Kalamazoo Christian (and 18-4 overall) a year ago.

• North Muskegon (7-0) – The Norsemen’s encore to last winter’s 20-4 finish has been perfect, including handing Ravenna the latter’s only defeat, 61-51 on Dec. 21. That victory has North Muskegon one win ahead of the Bulldogs in the West Michigan Conference, and no other opponent has come closer than 14 points.


• Athens (8-0) – After going 16-5 last season, Athens has big games this week against Jackson Christian and Battle Creek St. Philip (both 5-3) as it goes for a perfect first half. Union City gave the Indians their closest game Dec. 20, an eight-point win, and Athens came up big in December against Hillsdale Academy – which, although struggling, was a Class D semifinalist a year ago.

• Camden-Frontier (9-0) – The Redskins have the early lead in the Southern Central Athletic Association East after finishing second to Hillsdale Academy last winter, and doubled up the Colts in their Dec. 13 meeting. Camden-Frontier also repeated as the Pat Paterson Holiday Tournament champion with double-digit wins over Hillsdale and Reading to get halfway to besting last year’s 17 wins.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Novi (3-3) at Canton (5-1) – Novi beat Canton by five in last season’s Kensington Lakes Activities Association semifinals and then by two when they met again in a District Semifinal; they were the Chiefs’ only defeats of the season.

Tuesday – Macomb Dakota (6-1) at Sterling Heights Stevenson (6-1) – These two are tied for first in the Macomb Area Conference Red after Dakota edged Stevenson for the title by a win a year ago.

Thursday – Bellevue (6-0) at Camden-Frontier (9-0) – Both lead or are tied for the lead in their respective divisions of the SCAA, plus might end up among the top-ranked in all of Division 4.

Friday – Frankenmuth (4-3) at Bridgeport (7-0) – The same may not end up true this winter, but a year ago Bridgeport’s sweep of Frankenmuth gave the Bearcats the Tri-Valley Conference East title ahead of the runner-up Eagles.

Saturday – Grand Blanc (7-2) at Kalamazoo Central (5-1) – Coming off a key league matchup with Davison on Friday, Grand Blanc heads west to see another statewide Division 1 contender in Central.

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: Flint Beecher’s Earnest Sanders works for post position during his team’s win over Flint Carman-Ainsworth on Dec. 27. (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.)