Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 11

February 20, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This boys basketball season still has some surprises in store. 

The latest proof? Check out last week’s results from the Detroit area, especially the top two listed below to kick off this week’s Breslin Bound boys report powered by MI Student Aid.

We're two weeks from the start of District tournaments, so stay tuned as a number of teams attempt to clinch league titles this week and give us our last glimpses of what we might be able to expect once the playoffs begin.

Week in Review

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

1. Detroit Cass Tech 59, Detroit Martin Luther King 47 – The Technicians are 16-3, so this can’t be considered a complete shocker, but beating perennial power King gave Cass Tech its first Detroit PSL tournament championship reportedly in at least 20 years.

2. Southfield Arts & Technology 64, Clarkston 60 – The first-year Warriors got off to a rough start but are 7-3 over their last 10 games and earned a season highlight handing Clarkston its only loss.

3. Belleville 69, Romulus 66 – Belleville avenged its one-point loss to Romulus on Jan. 20 to earn a shared Western Wayne Athletic Conference Blue title with the Eagles.

4. Southfield Christian 73, Cornerstone Health & Technology 55 – Southfield Christian has rounded in Class D championship shape, showing it again against a potential Class C contender in Cornerstone.

5. East Lansing 66, Holt 61 – The Trojans remain one of only three undefeated teams in Class A despite losing a key scorer to injury and beating the Rams twice by only a combined nine points on the way to clinching a share of the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue title.

Watch List

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


Parma Western (14-3) – The Panthers have improved from 8-13 two seasons ago and 12-9 last winter to lead the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference with two league games to play. What’s more, Parma Western also is a one-point loss and another defeat in overtime from 16-1.

Portage Central (14-2) – After improving by 10 wins from 2014-15 to last winter, Portage Central can close out an outright championship in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West after sharing it with two others last season. The Mustangs earned a share this time by beating Portage Northern on Friday.


Hudsonville Unity Christian (14-3) – A 2-3 start was tough, but the Crusaders are unbeaten since the calendar turned to 2017. They clinched the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green title after finishing second and 16-9 overall a year ago.

Wyoming Godwin Heights (17-0) – Few teams in any sport have been as consistent as Godwin Heights this decade. The Wolverines are closing in on a sixth straight season of at least 20 wins and definitely look good to make a deep tournament run after reaching the Regional Semifinals last winter. They can clinch the O-K Silver title Tuesday against Wyoming Lee.


Morley Stanwood (14-2) – A 44-43 win over Kent City avenged an earlier loss and gave the Mohawks a share of the Central State Activities Association Silver title. Morley Stanwood finished second in the league to Kent City last season, but only 9-11 overall.

Riverview Gabriel Richard (15-1) – A two-point loss to Marine City Cardinal Mooney two weeks ago has been the only slip-up as Gabriel Richard won its division of the Detroit Catholic League and its first-round game in the C-D Tournament. The league title was the Pioneers’ fifth straight; next, they’ll try to improve on last season’s Regional Final appearance.


Owendale-Gagetown (14-2) – A 49-45 win over Burton Faith on Thursday gave Owendale-Gagetown a share of the Inner State Athletic Conference title. The Bulldogs started this season 1-2 but have rebounded nicely after making the move from the Michigan Summit League.

Sterling Heights Parkway Christian (11-4) – The Eagles have climbed from second last season to first in the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Red with three league games left. They bounced back from back-to-back losses to beat second-place Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest 74-72 on Friday.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Ottawa Lake Whiteford (15-2) at Sand Creek (15-0) – Sand Creek’s 17-point win last month was Whiteford’s only Tri-Country Conference loss; a win this time would clinch Sand Creek the league title.

Tuesday – Walled Lake Northern (13-4) at Walled Lake Western (13-4) – These neighbors split during the regular season as Western won the Kensington Lakes Activities Association North title; they meet this time in the Lakes playoffs.

Tuesday – Powers North Central (16-0) at Munising (15-2) – The Jets have pushed their MHSAA record and the longest active winning streak in the nation to 71 straight, but Munising could provide one of the toughest challenges so far.

Tuesday – Mount Pleasant (9-6) at Saginaw (14-3) – It got some headlines when the Oilers handed Saginaw its lone Saginaw Valley League North loss Jan. 20; the Trojans no doubt have circled this rematch.

Friday – Rochester Hills Stoney Creek (14-3) at Oxford (14-2) – Depending on how the rest of this week unfolds, Stoney Creek could clinch the Oakland Activities Association Blue title, or Oxford could move into a first-place tie.

PHOTO: Wyoming Godwin Heights, here against Belding, is three wins from a perfect regular-season finish and remains one of two undefeated teams in Class B. (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.)