Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 11

February 24, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Sunday was historic as for the first time, Boys Basketball District brackets were released with the top two teams separated to opposite sides, according to rankings produced by the Michigan Power Ratings formula.

While that was just another preliminary step for teams hoping to be Breslin Bound over the next month, more are to come this week as the state’s best finish off league titles or prepare to make their memories when the tournament begins in 14 days.

“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. River Rouge 58, Benton Harbor 52 – The Panthers (17-1) further cemented themselves among Division 1 championship favorites with a close win against one of the best in Division 2 in the Tigers (16-2).

3. Howell 75, Canton 71 (3OT) – The Highlanders locked up their first Kensington Lakes Activities Association West title since 2017 by outlasting co-runner-up Canton – a good thing because Howell fell three days later to also-second-place Northville.

3. Erie Mason 62, Blissfield 58 – The Eagles (13-3) avenged their lone league loss, by two to Blissfield (15-2) on Jan. 21 – to take over first place in the Lenawee County Athletic Association.

4. Coldwater 56, Battle Creek Pennfield 52 – After being upset by Jackson Northwest three days before, league leader Coldwater (11-6) hung on against one of three other teams in Pennfield (11-5) sitting within a game of first place in the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference.

5. Ypsilanti Lincoln 108, Chelsea 102 (2OT) – This didn’t have bearing on a league title – Lincoln (15-2) had already clinched the Southeastern Conference White and Chelsea (11-6) is fourth – but it was the first time since 1998 that two teams in Michigan combined to score at least 210 points.

Watch List

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


Muskegon (15-2) The Big Reds locked up their seventh Ottawa-Kent Conference Black title last week and have won 77 of their last 78 league games. Their only instate loss this season was 54-51 to Grand Blanc (15-3) – with the other defeat by 10 to Chicago Curie in December. They’ve been otherwise successful during an impressive nonleague slate that’s included wins over Ferndale (8-9 against the state’s ninth-strongest schedule), Saginaw (10-7) and Belleville (15-3) and with Kalamazoo Central (13-4) coming up next week.

River Rouge (17-1) Saturday’s win over Benton Harbor goes well with other nonleague victories over Ypsilanti Lincoln (15-2), Detroit Martin Luther King (13-5) and North Farmington (12-5) – and with Romulus (14-3) and Southfield Christian (13-3) coming up. Rouge’s only loss was 63-60 in overtime to Grand Rapids Catholic Central – the top-ranked team by MPR in Division 2. The Panthers also won their fifth-straight league title, going undefeated in the Michigan Metro Athletic Conference Blue thanks in part to sweeps of Hamtramck (14-3) and Ecorse (10-6).


Frankenmuth (14-2) – Two Tri-Valley Conference East teams are ranked among the top eight in Division 2 by MPR, Frankenmuth at No. 8 following No. 3 Bridgeport. The Eagles beat the Bearcats on Feb. 7 and trail in the standings by a game with two left. Frankenmuth also boasts solid wins over Jack Pine Conference co-leader Sanford Meridian (14-3) and Freeland (10-7) twice, and with room for a boost with Flint Southwestern (13-3) and Alma (12-6) coming up this week.

Otsego (17-1) The Bulldogs have won 15 straight and clinched the Wolverine Conference North championship, their third straight, and they can move to 24-0 in league play over those three seasons with a win over Allegan on Friday. The only loss was by 17 to Grand Rapids Catholic Central (see above) on Dec. 14. Only one team since – Battle Creek Lakeview – has come within nine points. Otsego also has an 11-point win over Edwardsburg, which it could see in next week’s conference crossover.


Iron Mountain (16-0) Returning a pair of stars from last season’s Division 3 runner-up run, Iron Mountain predictably has been dominant. The Mountaineers can clinch a share of the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference East title Tuesday and own a 69-51 win over second-place Negaunee (15-2) in from their first meeting Jan. 28 – they meet again March 5 to likely decide the title outright. Gladstone, with a 15-point loss Jan. 6, has come the closest to Iron Mountain so far.

Maple City Glen Lake (14-2) A 75-67 win over Frankfort on Friday finished a season sweep of the second-place Panthers (12-4) and clinched for Glen Lake the Northwest Conference title. The Lakers have won three straight league championships, including the last two outright, and are looking to make a run at a third-straight 20-win season as well. Their only losses were to Charlevoix (14-3) and Division 1 Traverse City West, and they beat Division 1 Saginaw Heritage (9-7) on Jan. 20 at Saginaw Valley State.


Hale (15-3) The Eagles have locked up the North Star League Little Dipper championship – their third consecutive – and despite losing two of their last three league games to second-place Posen (by one) and then Friday in a crossover that counts in the standings against Big Dipper champion Oscoda (by five). Those two and an earlier defeat to Oscoda (17-0) are the only losses this winter, and Hale did win its first meeting with Posen (12-4) by 16. The Eagles also have nice wins over Rogers City (11-7) and Mio (11-5).

Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (11-5) The Defenders are 10-2 after a 1-3 start and sit tied for first in the Alliance League with Wyoming Potter’s House Christian (11-6), which they face Friday. Tri-unity always loads its nonleague schedule with bigger opponents, and all five losses have come to Division 3 teams with 11 or more victories. Tri-unity also is one of five teams in its league with 11 or more wins, making its place at the top even more impressive. The Defenders take on four teams with double-digit wins over the next two weeks.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Detroit U-D Jesuit (11-6) vs. Detroit Loyola (13-2) at Bloomfield Hills Marian – This winner faces Wednesday’s Orchard Lake St. Mary’s/Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice winner for the Detroit Catholic League Bishop championship.

Tuesday – Grand Rapids Northview (12-6) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (14-4) – After handing Forest Hills Central its only O-K White loss Friday, Northern must beat third-place Northview to keep in the mix for a shared league title and then root for Northview to beat Central on Friday so it can claim the outright championship.

Friday – Mount Pleasant (16-0) at Grand Blanc (15-3) – The Saginaw Valley League Blue champion hosts the winner from the Red in a matchup of top Division 1 teams statewide.

Friday – Ann Arbor Huron (16-1) at Kalamazoo Central (13-4) – The Maroon Giants start off the week hosting Stevensville Lakeshore (14-3) and finish with another of the best from Division 1.

Friday – Traverse City St. Francis (15-2) at Charlevoix (14-3) – St Francis will likely clinch the Lake Michigan Conference title Tuesday, but second-place Charlevoix still will enjoy a chance to avenge its earlier 42-33 loss to the Gladiators.

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: Menominee's Keagan Monroe drives to the basket while being surrounded by Ishpeming defenders Ben Pruett (23), Breck Bell (22) and Griffin Argall (34) and teammate Keaton Uecke. (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.)