Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 12

February 27, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

For a good portion of Michigan’s best, the final week of this high school boys basketball regular season will be like starting the playoffs a week early. 

Only a few league championships are left to be decided. But a number of top teams face off for one more test before the season goes into win-and-advance mode with the start of Districts a week from today.

Below is our final regular-season Breslin Bound report – powered by MI Student Aid – before we switch up the format a bit to preview each week of the MHSAA Tournament.

Week in Review

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

1. Flint Carman-Ainsworth 99, Saginaw 60 – After beating Saginaw by seven earlier this season, Carman-Ainsworth posted one of its most impressive wins in some time in a crossover of Saginaw Valley League champs, Saginaw from the North and the Cavaliers from the South.

2. Romulus 73, Kalamazoo Central 63 – These Class A powers love to traverse the state looking for strong nonleague competition, and this one actually bodes well for both heading into Districts, although obviously a little better for the Eagles.

3. Wayne Memorial 55, Westland John Glenn 48 – Wayne split with its Kensington Lakes Activities Association South rival in winning the division, and got the tie-breaker with this victory to determine the Kensington champion and earn a spot in the overall KLAA finale. 

4. Walled Lake Central 50, Walled Lake Western 45 – Central may have finished a game behind Western in the KLAA North, but beat its rival in their second meeting and followed up with this victory in the KLAA Lakes final. 

5. Powers North Central 83, Munising 33 – We’ve seen plenty of impressive wins by the Class D Jets during this record run, but this one is notable too as Class C Munising entered 15-2.

Watch List

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


Detroit U-D Jesuit (15-3) – After escaping Orchard Lake St. Mary’s with a 51-49 win in the semifinal, U-D Jesuit won its fifth straight Detroit Catholic League A-B title with a 63-56 title game win over Warren DeLaSalle. The reigning Class A champion's losses came either in overtime or by a point this winter.

Macomb Dakota (17-3) – The Cougars, Class A semifinalists last season, battled through multiple injuries to top players to finish the regular season as champions of the Macomb Area Conference Red and MAC Red-White Tournament. The Cougars hit 100 points in that tourney finale and have topped 95 two other times during a 14-game winning streak. 


Big Rapids (17-1) – A big loss to Ludington on Feb. 7 not withstanding, Big Rapids has dominated again after making the Class B Semifinals last season. Only two of the Cardinals’ wins have come by single digits, and last week they finished an undefeated run through the Central State Activities Association Gold for the second straight season. 

Macomb Lutheran North (15-3) – The Mustangs beat 16-win Riverview Gabriel Richard 70-62 on Sunday to win the Detroit Catholic League C-D title. They’ve made a nice jump from 11 wins two seasons ago to 13 last winter and now 15 with a week until the MHSAA Tournament begins.


Flint Hamady (13-6) – Hamady’s boys normally slot behind rival Beecher among Flint’s best – and finished tied for second to the Bucs in the Genesee Area Conference Red. But the Hawks fell to Beecher by only four in their second meeting earlier this month, and made a statement with a 71-66 win over Class B and 16-win Frankenmuth last week.

Grandville Calvin Christian (14-4) – After coming a 3-pointer from winning the Class C title last season, Calvin Christian is running third in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Silver behind Class B favorite Wyoming Godwin Heights and rising Kelloggsville. The Squires appear poised to strike again in the postseason with 10 wins over their last 12 games.


Pittsford (16-3) – The school’s reigning Class D champion girls don’t have a monopoly on the town’s hoops success. Coming off a 16-6 finish and second place in the Southern Central Athletic Association East last winter, Pittsford’s boys equaled that win total last week while also clinching the league title. 

Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (11-7) – It’s just about impossible to go a whole season without checking in on the Defenders, who made the MHSAA Semifinals last season and are a threat to contend even when their regular-season losses approach double digits. Lansing Christian is the only Class D team to beat them this winter.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Grand Rapids Christian (18-0) at Wyoming Godwin Heights (19-0) – Grand Rapids’ two best teams, arguably, and contenders in Class A and B, respectively, give each other a great test during the final week.

Tuesday – New Haven (18-1) at Flint Beecher (15-4) – These two both have championship aspirations as well, New Haven in Class B and Beecher in Class C.

Tuesday – Southfield Christian (15-3) at River Rouge (17-1) – Rouge loaded up the schedule as it prepped for a Class B run, and Class D favorite Southfield Christian will provide another strong challenge.

Thursday – Wayne Memorial (16-3) at Walled Lake Central (14-5) – The KLAA championship game pairs a Wayne team that went 8-14 last year with a Central team that finished second in its division before this run.

Thursday – Holland West Ottawa (18-1) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (16-3) – The O-K Blue champion hosts the winner of the Red as they prepare for the Class B and A tournaments, respectively. 

PHOTO: Grand Rapids Christian (in blue) and Holland West Ottawa both finish with tough regular-season challenges this week; Christian best West Ottawa 57-49 on Dec. 28. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)

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.)