Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 10

February 4, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Last week from a boys basketball point of view was one to mostly forget, as just about every team statewide was forced to postpone one if not more games – bad news as we’re less than a month from the start of District play.

But thanks in part to a memorable event at Grand Rapids Union on Saturday, we closed on a high note – and there are plenty of critical league matchups this week to get us rolling again.

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. Benton Harbor 86, Ypsilanti Lincoln 83 – Another week, another big-time matchup for the Tigers, and this time they moved to 15-1 by handing Lincoln just its second loss of the season in the headlining game of the Redhawks Showcase at Grand Rapids Union.  

2. Grand Rapids Christian 57, Kalamazoo Central 54 (OT) – Not to be outdone at Union, Grand Rapids Christian sank a halfcourt buzzer beater to break a two-game losing streak.

3. Muskegon 56, Grand Blanc 53 – Also at Union, the Big Reds won their seventh straight in handing the Saginaw Valley League-leading Bobcats a defeat.

4. Milford 37, Walled Lake Northern 34 – The Mavericks handed Northern their first loss of the season, in part leading Waterford Kettering to secure a shared championship in the Lakes Valley Conference.  

5. Westland John Glenn 67, Wayne Memorial 63 – John Glenn finished a regular-season sweep of Wayne to create a three-way tie for first in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East between those two and Belleville.

Watch List

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


• Canton (13-1) – The Chiefs can lock up a share of the KLAA West title Tuesday against second-place (tied) Northville, which they beat by 19 on Dec. 20. Canton has won 24 straight league games, including a perfect run last season through the former KLAA Black. Canton also has won 13 straight this winter since falling to reigning Class C champion Detroit Edison by just three points, 69-66, in its opener.

• Okemos (14-1) – A loss three weeks ago to Detroit Catholic Central has been the only detour from an otherwise perfect run for Okemos this winter. The Chiefs can lock up a share of the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue title – which would be their second straight – with wins this week over Holt and East Lansing.


• Dearborn Divine Child (11-3) – The Falcons guaranteed themselves at least a share of the Detroit Catholic League AA championship Saturday with a 61-58 win over former leader Detroit Loyola – which had defeated Divine Child by six in overtime on Jan. 4. The title is the Falcons’ third straight either shared or outright, and the team’s only other losses are to Edison and another league leader in Rochester Adams.

• Grand Rapids South Christian (11-3) – A dramatic finish put Grand Rapids Christian among our top-five results above, but South Christian’s 56-50 win over the Eagles on Friday could end up much more significant. It avenged the Sailors’ loss in the teams’ first meeting Jan. 4, and put South Christian in first in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold as well as extended an eight-game winning streak since that defeat.


• Detroit Pershing (14-1) – The Doughboys finished a 10-0 run through the Detroit Public School League East-Town heading into this week’s PSL tournament. Pershing could be making some big plans over the next two months – the only loss this winter came by four to Toledo Scott, and an overtime win over Ypsilanti Arbor Prep early remains impressive. And don’t forget, Pershing’s 2017-18 season ended with a pretty strong six-point defeat to Edison in a Regional Semifinal.

• Oscoda (14-0) – The Owls won eight games two seasons ago and 14 last winter, and they’re guaranteed to at least equal that finish as they close in on an anticipated North Star League Big Dipper championship. Oscoda downed second-place Mio on Friday for the second time this season, 41-34, and after winning the first meeting by two points.


• Carsonville-Port Sanilac (11-2) – The Tigers lead the North Central Thumb League Stripes title chase and have won nine straight games after opening the season 2-2. Carsonville-Port Sanilac finished just 6-14 a year ago and has guaranteed its first winning season since 2012-13.

• Frankfort (10-2) – The Panthers trail Northwest Conference leader Maple City Glen Lake by just a game heading into their rematch Thursday – Glen Lake won the first meeting by 25 on Jan. 9. Frankfort’s only other loss came Dec. 12 to Elk Rapids, a contender in the Lake Michigan Conference, as the annual success has continued under first-year coach Daniel Loney.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Monday – Martin (9-1) at Coloma (8-4) – These two are tied for first in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore after Coloma’s win Friday over another former co-leader Fennville.

Tuesday – Hudsonville Unity Christian (12-2) at Holland Christian (11-2) – Unity Christian can’t lock up the O-K Green title yet, but only one of its league games has been decided by single digits and the Crusaders won the first meeting of this series by 21 on Jan. 8.

Tuesday – Kalamazoo Central (9-2) at Mattawan (11-0) – The first-place team in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West hosts the leader of the SMAC East.

Tuesday – Kalamazoo Hackett (11-1) at Schoolcraft (13-1) – Thanks to a 16-point win in their first meeting Dec. 18, Hackett owns a slim lead over Schoolcraft in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley.

Saturday – New Lothrop (10-3) at Mount Morris (10-2) – Mount Morris is tied for first during this inaugural season for the Mid-Michigan Athletic Conference, but New Lothrop is just a game behind and also sees co-leader Ovid-Elsie again.

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: Okemos, here against Lansing Waverly, can clinch a league title with a pair of wins this week. (Click to see 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.)