Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 1

December 12, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The storm that rolled through the state Saturday and Sunday seemed to say welcome to winter. But a snow day can’t get in the way of introducing our revamped “Breslin Bound” report, powered by MI Student Aid.

Over the last few seasons, we’ve weekly posted looks at teams to watch in each class with an eye on the end-of-season MHSAA Tournament. We’re changing things up and expanding a little too to make sure you know about all of the most significant scores from the week that was, plus what games coming up are most likely to have our attention.

Results and schedules are based on what’s published for each school at To offer corrections or missing scores, please contact me at [email protected].  

Week in Review

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

1. Benton Harbor 57, Dowagiac 36 – Benton Harbor finished last season 15-6 but with three losses over its final four games; with this win, the Tigers avenged that final defeat, a 68-60 loss to Dowagiac.

2. Detroit East English 84, Flint Beecher 74 – Coming off a 17-5 record and league title last winter, East English picked right back up with a solid win over the reigning Class C champion.

3. Belleville 54, Canton 31 – The Tigers are off to a 2-0 start after winning 19 a year ago, and dropped Canton to 0-2 after the Chiefs were undefeated last regular season.

4. North Muskegon 44, Muskegon Oakridge 29 – The Norsemen finished fourth in the West Michigan Conference last season due in part to 14 and 16-point losses to Oakridge, which ended 16-6 overall.

5. Romulus 70, Chicago Bogan (Ill.) 67 – For a Romulus team coming off a 12-8 finish, beating a frequent Illinois contender was a great way to start climbing back to elite.

Watch List

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


Ann Arbor Pioneer (2-0) – The Pioneers are looking to build on last season’s District title, and avenged one of their five losses from last winter by downing Southfield Christian 66-62 in their opener.

Coldwater (2-0) – Coming off 11-10 a year ago, the Cardinals might be in line for a jump after opening with two close wins, including 56-54 over reigning Interstate 8 Athletic Conference champion Marshall.


Coopersville (2-0) – Lost among some of the other Grand Rapids-area powers, Coopersville has won at least 15 games the last two seasons, and opened with another strong step downing Kent City 54-47 and East Grand Rapids 65-51; Kent City won its league last season.

River Rouge (2-0) – A Class B quarterfinalist last season, Rouge opened with a couple of nice wins over West Bloomfield (57-52) and Detroit Renaissance (45-36), which went a combined 30-14 last winter.  


Manton (2-0) – The Rangers are coming off a 17-5 season that started with losses to Class A Traverse City West and Petoskey; Manton opened this season beating West 76-72 and Petoskey 52-48, so it should be lined up well to chase McBain (below) again in the Highland Conference.

McBain (2-0) – A Class C semifinalist last season that opened with 26 straight wins (including the only two losses Manton received in league play), the Ramblers surged out of the gate again beating Benzie Central 58-35 and Traverse City St. Francis – 16-8 last winter – 73-39.


Martin (2-0) – The reigning Southwestern Athletic Conference Central champion seems primed for a repeat run after opening with a 66-63 win over Saugatuck, last year’s SAC Lakeshore runner-up (and 16-5 overall).

Powers North Central (2-0) – Let’s get the start to “Jets Watch” out of the way, right away; North Central’s wins last week over Stephenson (87-19) and Rapid River (92-39) pushed their winning streak to 57 straight, going back to Dec. 8, 2014, and they sit eight short of tying Chassell’s record from 1956-58.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Thursday: Powers North Central (2-0) at Carney-Nadeau (2-0) – The Wolves get next shot at breaking North Central’s winning streak; they finished 14-8 last season with two defeats to the Jets.

Thursday: Frankenmuth (0-0) at Millington (1-0) – The football rivalry carries over to basketball, with the Cardinals (14-10 last season) looking to get an early edge on the reigning Tri-Valley Conference East co-champion.

Friday: Hudsonville Unity Christian (2-0) at Hudsonville (0-2) – Both made Quarterfinals last season, Unity in Class B and Hudsonville in Class A, with the Eagles claiming their early-season matchup by nine points.

Friday: East Lansing (2-0) at Lansing Everett (1-0) – East Lansing won the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue last season, but Everett reached the Class A Semifinals by handing the Trojans their first and only loss in a Regional Final.

Friday: Wyoming Godwin Heights (1-0) at Lowell (0-0) – These were two of the best from the Grand Rapids area last season as both won District titles, Lowell in Class A and Godwin Heights in Class B.

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 (in red) downed Corunna 60-19 in posting a 2-1 record during the first week of this season. (Click for more from Varsity Monthly.)

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.)