Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 10

February 18, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The countdown has begun.

Five days until we announce District brackets with the top two teams on separate sides for the first time. Just under three weeks until the regular season ends. Five weeks from today we’ll be packing for the Breslin Center and this season’s Boys Basketball Semifinals and Finals.

It could go by in a flash. But in the meantime, there are tons of moments to savor – especially at the local league level. We turn a lot of our focus to those in this week’s report.

“Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at Send corrections or missing scores to [email protected].

Week in Review

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

1. Detroit Cass Tech 66, Detroit Douglass 41 – The Technicians (17-1) repeated as Detroit Public School League Tournament champions with a commanding win over the Hurricanes (15-4).

2. Wyoming 62, Grand Rapids Christian 61 – The Wolves’ only loss this winter was by two Jan. 17 to the Eagles (14-1), and Wyoming (14-1) taking the rematch eventually could result in them sharing the Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold title.

3. Marquette 68, Escanaba 64 – The Redmen (15-3) locked up their fourth-straight Great Northern Conference championship by avenging their lone league loss, to second-place Escanaba (11-6).

4. Belleville 53, Westland John Glenn 49 – The Tigers (13-3) earned a share of the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East title with a second win over the second-place Rockets (11-5).

5. Ann Arbor Skyline 53, Ann Arbor Huron 40 – The Eagles (11-5) not only avenged a Jan. 24 defeat but handed the first this season to the rival River Rats (14-1).

Watch List

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


Hudsonville (14-1) The Eagles already have clinched the O-K Red title outright as no other league team has fewer than four losses. The championship was Hudsonville’s second straight after going just 10-12 two seasons ago. The lone loss this winter came against another Division 1 contender, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 65-47 on Feb. 1 – and the Eagles will get another major test tonight in Wyoming (14-1) as they prep to build on last year’s Regional Final run.

Ypsilanti Lincoln (13-2) The reigning Division 1 champion has taken the first step toward another memorable finish, clinching a share of the Southeastern Conference White title Friday with a 68-45 win over second-place Dexter. The Railsplitters and sophomore phenom Emoni Bates also have impressive wins over Okemos (12-3) and Detroit Edison (10-4), and the losses look pretty great too – to Division 2 contender Benton Harbor and on opening night to River Rouge in a preview of a possible playoff matchup.


Bridgeport (16-1) A loss two weeks ago to Frankenmuth was the only trip-up as Bridgeport has moved within two wins of clinching a share of the Tri-Valley Conference East title for the fourth-straight season. The Bearcats are second in Division 2 MPR with wins also over Linden (14-2), Skyline (11-5), the Eagles (12-2) and Flint Southwestern (13-2) among 10 total against teams with double-digit victories. That also includes a pair against Alma (12-4), which handed Bridgeport its only loss of last season in a Regional Semifinal.

Carrollton (14-0) The Cavaliers already have tied their most wins for a season since 2014-15, and they’ll be in line to claim the Tri-Valley Conference West title if they can finish a season sweep Friday of second-place Hemlock (14-1), which Carrollton defeated the first time 64-46 on Jan. 17. The Cavaliers also own a 77-70 win over Greater Thumb Conference West leader Reese and will close the regular-season with another nice test in currently-unbeaten Kingston.


Detroit Loyola (12-2) The Bulldogs are Detroit Catholic League AA champions and a pair of back-to-back five-point losses to Hamtramck and Dearborn Divine Child from a perfect record. They avenged that defeat to Divine Child with a 17-point win Feb. 11, and they’ve also handed Macomb Lutheran North (12-2) its only defeats this winter. The league title was Loyola’s second straight, and it also reached the Regional Finals last season.

Oscoda (15-0) The Owls have run their regular-season winning streak to 35 and remain the pacesetter in the North Star League Big Dipper thanks in part to a pair of double-digit wins over Mio (11-4). Oscoda also has a 30-point win over Posen (11-4) and a 21-pointer over Hale (14-2) with the rematch against the latter coming up Friday. They’ll also hope to build next month on last year’s Regional Finals run.


Bellevue (13-2) The Broncos have won 10 straight as they pursue what would be a fifth-straight Southern Central Athletic Association West championship. Bellevue has a slight edge on Battle Creek St. Philip after defeating the Tigers last week for the second time, this time 54-41. The Broncos have more to aim for as well – they’ve won seven straight District titles and reached the Quarterfinals a year ago.

Dryden (11-4) Despite trailing Kingston and International Academy of Flint in the North Central Thumb League Stars, Dryden is ahead of IAF and No. 4 statewide in Division 4 MPR. The Cardinals split with the Phoenix, winning the second meeting 49-34 on Jan. 31, and Dryden’s only losses of calendar year 2020 are two to Kingston. New Lothrop (14-2) in the regular-season finale will be a challenge, but winning out would push Dryden past its 15-win totals of the last two seasons before the playoffs start.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Okemos (12-3) at East Lansing (13-1) – The Chiefs lead the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue by a game over the Trojans thanks to a 69-51 win in their first meeting Jan. 14.

Tuesday – Canton (11-5) at Howell (13-3) – The Highlanders can clinch the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West title outright with a win over second-place Canton; their first meeting went to Howell 50-48 on Jan. 24.

Thursday – Cadillac (13-2) at Petoskey (10-4) – These two are tied for first in the Big North Conference, and the winner of this game wins a share of the league title – and the whole thing if Traverse City Central loses to Gaylord this night or another of its final three league games.

Friday – Blissfield (14-1) at Onsted (11-4) – The Royals lead Onsted in the Lenawee County Athletic Association by a game, but lost the first meeting with the Wildcats 55-53 on Jan. 7.

Saturday – Benton Harbor (15-1) at River Rouge (16-1) – Last season’s Division 2 runner-up Rouge hosts the 2018 Class B champion Tigers in a matchup of teams that could both end up in MHSAA Finals next month.

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 Beecher, here against Burton Bendle on Feb. 7, leads Division 3 MPR with three weeks remaining in the regular season. (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.)