Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 1

December 11, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

One of the best parts of boys basketball season is how quickly the state’s elite teams begin testing themselves against each other to get an idea where they stand coming into the winter.

We saw plenty of those titanic matchups last week – although the first game to top our “Week in Review” for 2017-18 allowed us to look back more than look forward.

As during last season, the weekly Breslin Bound report – powered by MI Student Aid – will look at five results from the previous week that particularly popped, plus a few teams to keep on your radar during the months ahead and five games during the week to come that you might want to check out.

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 last week’s five most intriguing results: 

1. Rapid River 65, Powers North Central 43 – The Rockets put an end to North Central’s MHSAA-record 84-game winning streak, which began on opening night of the 2014-15 season.

2. Canton 65, Belleville 61 – This opener shook Class A quite a bit with Canton losing to Belleville by 23 last year and the Tigers expected to contend for a spot at Breslin this upcoming March.

3. Detroit Cass Tech 84, Flint Beecher 53 – The Technicians are expected to be among Class A contenders after winning 19 games a year ago, and this was a great sign as reigning Class C champ Beecher no doubt will be in that mix again as well.

4. Clarkston 65, Wayne Memorial 55 – The reigning Class A champ got a nice win over another expected contender before finishing the week with a five-point victory in another test, against Flint Carman-Ainsworth.

5. Hazel Park 86, Detroit East English 72 – The Vikings may have taken a step toward joining the elite with a big win over one of the anticipated best from the Detroit Public School League.

Watch List

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


Canton (2-0) – The Chiefs opened 0-2 a year ago with losses to Detroit Country Day and Belleville, the teams they beat last week. Canton plays in a Kensington Lakes Activities Association Black with expected favorites Wayne and Westland John Glenn, but showed last week it should be right in the mix after finishing third and 13-8 overall in 2016-17.

Mattawan (2-0) – The Wildcats were 7-14 a year ago and haven’t had a winning season this decade. But they couldn’t have gotten off to a better start, opening with a 55-54 win over Paw Paw after falling to the eventual 18-win Redskins by 16 a year ago.


Escanaba (2-0) – Coming off a banner football season, the Eskymos provided some early excitement on the basketball court last week after winning 12 games last winter. Escanaba avenged last year’s 20-point opening night loss with a 60-45 win over Negaunee, which won 20 games last season.

Essexville Garber (2-0) – The Dukes’ 5-16 campaign last winter ended with seven straight losses including by a basket to Bay City John Glenn in the District. The bounce-back began last week with a 25-point win over Pinconning followed by a 14-pointer over the rival Bobcats.


Bad Axe (2-0) – An ability to win close games surely would be beneficial as Bad Axe looks to build on last season’s 10-10 finish. The Hatchets beat both Imlay City and Harbor Beach by three points last week; both opponents finished with winning records last winter.

Detroit Pershing (1-0) – The Doughboys have had three middling seasons since their last 20-win run in 2013-14, but they’re expected to be among the state’s best even as they will play a mostly Class A schedule. Last week’s 81-74 overtime win over 2017 Class D semifinalist Southfield Christian was an impressive way to start.


Ewen-Trout Creek (2-0) – The Panthers’ 6-foot-7 senior Jacob Witt is probably one of the most unknown standout all-around athletes in the state, but he could finish this season with his team making some noise. Ewen-Trout Creek went 14-9 last season and last week avenged a 2016-17 loss to Hancock with a 38-point win.

Rapid River (2-0) – The Rockets not only ended North Central’s streak, but opened with a 56-53 win over Carney-Nadeau, which is coming off a 15-win season. Rapid River was 11-13 last winter after opening with an eight-point loss to Carney-Nadeau and a 53-pointer to the Jets, but the Rockets did close 2016-17 on an 8-4 run.  

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Dansville (2-0) at Pewamo-Westphalia (1-0) – The Pirates regularly are among contenders statewide in Class C, but Dansville and 6-9 Caleb Hodgson surely would love to take their place starting in the Central Michigan Athletic Conference standings.

Thursday – Rapid River (2-0) at Crystal Falls Forest Park (2-0) – These look like early contenders to go after the top Class D spot from the Upper Peninsula as reigning MHSAA champion North Central is expected to fall back toward the pack.

Friday – Saginaw Arthur Hill (0-1) at Saginaw (0-0) – This one rarely disappoints; all three meetings went Saginaw’s way by double digits last season, but that third one did come in a District Final.

Friday – Hazel Park (1-0) at Detroit U-D Jesuit (2-0) – The Cubs are off to another strong start and have a tough game against East English on Tuesday before Hazel Park comes in looking for another big early win.

Sunday – Detroit Pershing (1-0) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (2-0) at Ecorse – This looks to be the premier game of the Hoopz 4 Hope Classic, as the Eaglets also have a pair of double-digit wins to start this winter.

PHOTO: Lansing Everett was among teams that began 2-0 to start the season last week. (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.)