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.)

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.)