Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 1

December 16, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This boys basketball season needed just a few hours of opening night to satisfy the anticipation that’s been building since last season’s MHSAA Finals finished a little more than eight months ago.

We’ll bank on that first week as an indication of what’s to come.

Below is our first “Breslin Bound” report of the boys season, powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at Those results have become much more vital this winter – for the first time, there will be limited seeding of the top two teams at the District level based on their Michigan Power Rating (MPR). Check out how every team in the state ranks, and send corrections or missing scores to [email protected].

Week in Review

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

1. River Rouge 63, Ypsilanti Lincoln 53 – This high-profile matchup started the week and season, as reigning Division 2 runner-up Rouge handed reigning Division 1 champion Lincoln an opening defeat at Eastern Michigan University’s Convocation Center. 

2. Grand Blanc 80, Detroit Douglass 77 – This Horatio Williams Showcase headliner featured one of the state’s best sophomores and juniors and two teams that should be making pushes in March in Divisions 1 and 2, respectively.

3. Saginaw 88, Saginaw Arthur Hill 76 – After scoring 101 points in its opener, Saginaw put up another big number in its first matchup of the season with the rival Lumberjacks.

4. Ferndale 66, Flint Beecher 55 – The Eagles also posted an impressive win at the Horatio Williams event, getting past a Beecher team looking toward contending in Division 3 again after making the Quarterfinals last season.

5. Ypsilanti Arbor Prep 48, Detroit U-D Jesuit 47 – Division 3 Arbor Prep started its season with a one-point win over the reigning Division 1 runner-up. 

Watch List

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


Ann Arbor Huron (2-0) Last season’s 13-8 record was a bit deceptive; two losses were one-pointers and its District defeat came in overtime. The River Rats are starting out on the positive end of those close games this winter, with their first win 53-50 over returning Division 3 semifinalist Detroit Edison.

Marquette (2-0) For the second straight season, Marquette opened with wins over Brighton and Petoskey – this time by eight and three points, respectively. Last season, that start turned into a 19-4 finish with league and District championships.


Detroit Communication Media Arts (2-0) CMA improved five wins from 2017-18 last winter to get to 11-10, and may be on its way toward taking another step. The Pharaohs opened with a 74-48 win over Pershing to avenge last season’s one-point loss to the Doughboys, then got past Farmington in overtime 70-68 after Farmington had opened with an impressive win over Wayne Memorial.

Imlay City (3-0) The Spartans are coming off two straight sub-.500 seasons but did improve two wins last winter to 10-12. The Harry Moore Tournament at Capac gave them an opportunity for three wins during the first week, and Imlay City capitalized by defeating Deckerville in the championship game.


Burton Bendle (2-0) The Tigers are halfway to equaling last season’s 4-17 success thanks to double-digit wins over Flint Southwestern and Flint New Standard Academy. The 84-74 win over Southwestern avenged last season’s one and 11-point losses to the Jaguars.

Farwell (2-0) The Eagles haven’t won more than five games in a season since 2013-14, and tied that high of five last winter. But they are 2-0 for the first time in at least a decade, opening with a 65-64 win over Remus Chippewa Hills after losing to the Warriors by 17 a year ago.


Mayville (2-0) The Wildcats over the last six seasons have gradually climbed, progressing to an 8-14 finish a year ago. Last week gave them their best start in at least a decade, as Mayville stacked double-digit wins over Akron-Fairgrove and Caseville.

Three Oaks River Valley (3-0) The Mustangs doubled their success last season from 2017-18, going from 6-15 to 13-9 and despite a 1-3 start. River Valley opened last week with double-digit wins over Decatur and White Pigeon and then avenged a pair of losses from last season to Marcellus Howardsville Christian.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Sanford Meridian (1-1) at Beaverton (2-0) – Three wins over Beaverton last season played significant parts in Meridian winning the Jack Pine Conference title and reaching the Division 3 Quarterfinals.

Tuesday – Grand Rapids Catholic Central (1-0) at Grand Rapids Christian (2-0) – GRCC won the regular-season and District matchups between these two last season, the latter on the way to a Division 2 Regional Final.

Thursday – Pittsford (1-1) at Bellevue (1-0) – These two both won divisions of the Southern Central Athletic Association last season; Bellevue won their regular-season meeting and the rematch in the Division 4 Regional Final.

Friday – Kalamazoo Central (1-0) at Benton Harbor (2-0) – These annual southwestern powers are meeting for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

Saturday – Detroit U-D Jesuit (1-1) at Detroit Edison (1-1) – As noted above, both ended last season at Breslin Center, Jesuit in the Division 1 Final and Edison in the Division 3 Semifinals.

Second Half’s weekly “Breslin Bound” reports are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning 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. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

PHOTO: Flint Carman-Ainsworth opened the season last week with an 81-45 win over Davison. (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.)