Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 11

February 12, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

If games are played as scheduled, this week will be a great appetizer for what’s on the way for Michigan high school basketball fans.

The weather isn’t exactly making it easy for the state’s boys teams to finish up their regular-season schedules. But the rewards are in full view now – league championships for some, league tournament titles as well, and for everyone a fresh start with the beginning of District play in two weeks.

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. Sterling Heights Stevenson 54, Roseville 45 – In the final game before the league tournament, the Titans avenged an earlier 10-point loss to Roseville and in doing so earned a shared Macomb Area Conference Red championship with the Panthers.

2. Mattawan 48, Kalamazoo Central 47 (OT) – This matched up the first-place teams from the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West and East, respectively, after Central finished first and Mattawan second in the former East configuration last season.

3. Belleville 89, Westland John Glenn 86 – A three-team race in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East might be down to just two with this Belleville win, setting up one of this week’s top matchups discussed below.

4. Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills 76, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer 71 (3OT) – Kenowa Hills likely fell out of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Black title mix by losing to Jenison in its next game, but this win over Reeths-Puffer reset the top of the standings for another of this week’s most anticipated games.

5. Kalamazoo Hackett 69, Schoolcraft 61 – Hackett can clinch the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley title with its next win after finishing a sweep of Schoolcraft, which hasn’t lost to anyone else this winter.

Watch List

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


• Detroit Martin Luther King (15-2) – The Crusaders shared the Detroit Public School League Midtown championship with Cass Tech, their only losses this season to the Technicians in their first of two meetings and then a month ago to now-clinched Oakland Activities Association Red champion Clarkston. King could see Cass Tech a third time in this week’s PSL Tournament final – but first faces West-Town champion Renaissance in the semifinal Tuesday.

• Linden (15-1) – From 5-16 to 9-14 to 13-8 and now this season’s success, Linden has been building. Friday’s 48-35 win over 2018 Flint Metro League co-champ Flushing gave the Eagles a share of this season’s league title – its first conference championship since 1996.


• Harper Woods Chandler Park (14-0) – The Eagles are among three undefeated teams left in Division 2 and won the Charter School Conference title outright after sharing the championship last season. A 51-37 win over 2018 Class C champion Detroit Edison last week cemented Chandler Park’s status as a team to watch over the next month.

• River Rouge (15-1) – The Panthers have won 14 straight since suffering their only loss, by three to King on Dec. 1. River Rouge has clinched a share of the Michigan Metro Athletic Conference Blue title, its third straight league championship and an anticipated first step as the team looks to build on last season’s Class B Semifinals appearance.


• Erie-Mason (12-2) – The Eagles clinched a share of the Lenawee County Athletic Association title Friday with an 80-52 win over reigning champ Hillsdale, and after finishing second to the Hornets last season. Erie-Mason has improved as well on last season’s overall 11-10 record, and with two more wins would tie its most for a season this decade.

• Unionville-Sebewaing (13-0) – The Patriots actually improved to 14-0 with a four-overtime win over Tri-Valley Conference West leader Saginaw Valley Lutheran on Monday. USA is one of six undefeated teams in Division 3 and atop the Greater Thumb Conference West standings as it works for a third straight perfect run through the league schedule.


• Adrian Lenawee Christian (11-3) – The Cougars do not play in a league, but should be intriguing once District play begins. Friday’s 13-point loss to Division 2 Michigan Center was a great game for postseason preparation – as were the other defeats against Division 3 contender Quincy and Ohio’s Toledo Christian. Ten of Lenawee Christian’s wins have come by double digits, with the single-digit victory a one-pointer over Division 1 Monroe.

• Pittsford (14-2) – The Wildcats can clinch the Southern Central Athletic Association East title with a win over second-place Camden-Frontier on Thursday, and after defeating two-loss Athens 64-50 on Friday. Since falling to Britton-Deerfield in the season opener, Pittsford’s only other loss came to still-unbeaten Bellevue.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Muskegon (12-3) at Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (14-2) – This could end up deciding the O-K Black title; Reeths-Puffer won the first meeting 63-59 in overtime, and the Big Reds are 8-0 since that heartbreaker.

Tuesday – Belleville (11-5) at Wayne Memorial (13-3) – The winner will clinch a share of the KLAA East title with only one more league game remaining for both teams.

Tuesday – Detroit Martin Luther King (15-2) vs. Detroit Renaissance (14-3) at Cass Tech – Renaissance finished a perfect run through the PSL West-Town and is seeking to make the league tournament final after falling by two in last season’s semi.

Friday – Williamston (16-1) at Haslett (11-3) – With Williamston arguably the Lansing area’s best boys team, Haslett has been forgotten a bit but can move into a first-place tie in the Capital Area Activities Conference Red if it can avenge a six-point January loss.

Saturday – River Rouge (15-1) at Benton Harbor (16-1) – Division 2 has 12 teams with one or fewer losses this season, and these two certainly are in the mix to meet again next month at Breslin Center with the championship on the line. Benton Harbor beat River Rouge 60-49 during last season’s Semifinals.

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: Negaunee's Drew DuShane (23) drives to the basket as Ishpeming's Jacob Kugler (44) defends during Friday's 56-48 Miners win. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)

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.)