Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 10

February 12, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Aspiring boys basketball teams are taking aim at frontrunners all over Michigan as we reach the middle of February.

The Detroit Public School League experienced this most last week as arguably the three favorites for this season’s league tournament title all were eliminated. The Upper Peninsula and northern Lower also saw undefeated powers fall for the first time.

Plenty more opportunities to re-set the pecking order are coming up; see some of them below. 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. Detroit Edison Public School Academy 59, Detroit Cass Tech 51 – This PSL game certainly shook up the bracket as the Pioneers eliminated the reigning league tournament champion.

2. Detroit Renaissance 66, Detroit East English 65 – This also was a bit of a PSL quarterfinal shocker, with East English the only team in the state this season to beat reigning Class A champ Clarkston.

3. Dollar Bay 51, Ewen-Trout Creek 42 – More than 3,000 fans packed Michigan Tech’s gym to see Dollar Bay emerge from this meeting of previously-undefeated Class D contenders.

4. Detroit Pershing 50, Detroit Henry Ford 44 – Despite an 8-9 record, Pershing has been mentioned as a Class C contender with its wins and losses more a reflection of its tough schedule; winning this game over a Class B contender backs up that theory.

5. Frankfort 53, McBain 48 – The Panthers should have plenty to say in Class D as well, and their play did the talking in handing Class C McBain its only defeat.

Watch List

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


Holland West Ottawa (14-1) – The Panthers are on a two-month winning streak since losing their opener to Wyoming Godwin Heights. They clinched a share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red championship, their third straight, on Friday with three league games to play. They finished 23-2 overall last year and will look to add a Regional title this time around. 

Ypsilanti Community (11-1) – The Grizzlies have a slim lead in the Southeastern Conference White but can solidify it next week by avenging their lone loss, to Dexter. They have won league championships all four years since forming from the old Ypsilanti and Willow Run high schools.


New Haven (16-0) – The Rockets are among the least surprising successes in the state coming off last year’s Class B title and returning standout junior Romeo Weems. Saginaw Arthur Hill on Saturday was the first team to come closer than 17 points, as New Haven won 71-68.

Wyoming Godwin Heights (14-1) – The Wolverines remain among the class of the Grand Rapids area and statewide, looking to return to the season’s final week after falling in the Regional a year ago. The only loss was in overtime to Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (now 13-2), with wins over West Ottawa and Pershing – and no other opponents coming closer than 11 points. 


Cassopolis (12-0) – The Rangers are holding down first place in the inaugural Southwest 10 Conference standings after winning Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph division championships the last three seasons. They’ve put up at least 70 points seven times – and dropped 111 in their last game Feb 3.

Unionville-Sebewaing (12-0) – The Patriots are looking to add a second straight league title and are perfect through the first half of the Greater Thumb Conference West schedule. Last week included a win over Jack Pine Conference leader Sanford Meridian Early College, and a December victory over Detroit Douglass also is worth noting.


Hillsdale Academy (13-1) – With a loss only to Class B neighbor Hillsdale High, the Colts look good to improve on last season’s 17-7 overall finish. Only one other opponent has come within double digits, and Hillsdale Academy leads the Southern Central Athletic Association East after tying for second last season.

Southfield Christian (12-3) – This season has been standard Southfield Christian – play a bunch of larger powerhouses to prepare for the postseason while taking care of things in the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue. A win over Detroit Martin Luther King was strong, and an overtime loss to Pershing was similarly impressive.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Wednesday – Buckley (11-3) at Frankfort (12-1) – Frankfort won the first round by 16, but the reigning Class D runner-up Bears lead the Northwest Conference by half a game.

Friday – Frankenmuth (13-1) at Bridgeport (12-1) – The Bearcats set the tone for an excellent run by downing the rival Eagles by 14 at the start of January; a sweep would all but secure the Tri-Valley Conference East title. 

Friday – Troy (11-3) at Clarkston (13-1) – Aside from Detroit East English, which beat Clarkston in December, few others have come close to the Wolves; Troy, which fell only 59-54 on Jan. 9, is one of those few.

Friday – Detroit PSL Final at University of Detroit Mercy – King (9-5), Pershing (8-9), Edison (8-9) and Renaissance (11-4) will play in Tuesday semifinals to set Friday’s championship matchup.

Friday – River Rouge (15-0) at Southfield Christian (12-3) – They share some motivation; both made it to the Breslin Center last season and both lost Semifinals in overtime, in Class B and D, respectively.

PHOTO: A Bridgeport player goes up for a dunk during a win over Saginaw Swan Valley this season. (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.)