Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 12

February 26, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Special for Second Half

Soon we’ll be celebrating District, Regional and Finals champions in boys basketball.

But as we roll into the final week of this regular season, we’ve got a few more memorable stories to tell.

Take, for example, Burton Bentley, which clinched its first league title in 41 years earlier this month after going 9-12 a year ago. Or Okemos, which made an impressive yet at least a little bit unexpected closing run mentioned more below. Last week had a few more surprise wins too that could make storylines more interesting as we get into tournament mode.

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. Novi 71, Canton 56 – The Wildcats have rattled off six straight wins and with this one not only earned a spot in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association championship game, but also handed Canton its only loss this season.

2. Okemos 64, East Lansing 56 – Okemos had beaten the Trojans without star Brandon Johns on Jan. 19, but this win over East Lansing with him clinched for the Chiefs the outright Capital Area Activities Conference Blue title.

3. Maple City Glen Lake 53, Frankfort 47 – This tied things up at the top of the Northwest Conference with Glen Lake, Frankfort and Buckley in line to share the title with one last league game to play.

4. Ishpeming 53, Iron Mountain 47 – Second place Ishpeming can’t catch Iron Mountain in the Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference, but on this night the Hematites handed the Mountaineers their lone defeat this winter.

5. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood 52, Madison Heights Bishop Foley 36 – After going 12-10 last season, Cranbrook is 18-1 and won the Catholic League C-D tournament title with this victory.

Watch List

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


Detroit U-D Jesuit. (16-3) – The Cubs are Detroit Catholic League Central and A-B tournament champs again, and haven’t lost a game instate since Dec. 15. Jesuit opened this season with a four-point overtime win over Detroit Edison, and will see now-Detroit Public School League champ Edison again Thursday in an Operation Friendship game.

Flint Carman-Ainsworth (17-2) – The Cavaliers won the Saginaw Valley League by three games and gave reigning Class A champion Clarkston one of its few challenges this season, falling by just five on Dec. 7. The only other loss came to Holland West Ottawa (17-2), and nonleague wins over Grand Blanc (16-3), Detroit Renaissance (11-5) and Flint Hamady (13-5) should have Carman-Ainsworth prepared as well.


Detroit Voyageur (18-0) – The Cougars are an intriguing team to watch over the next few weeks coming off Michigan Metro Athletic Conference division and tournament championships and with a win as well over Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (14-4). The Gators and MMAC Black runner-up Detroit Community (10-5) are the only opponents that have come within single digits.

Grand Rapids Catholic Central (16-1) – Considered a Class B contender from the start this season, GRCC has lost only to another in Wyoming Godwin Heights. The Cougars since have won 13 straight and all by double digits, including a pair against Spring Lake (15-4).


Hanover-Horton (16-2) – The Comets have clinched a share of the Cascades Conference title after tying for second last season, and are well on their way to equaling or bettering last year’s 19-4 overall finish. Only second-place Michigan Center (15-2) has come within single digits during Hanover-Horton’s 12-game winning streak.

Kalamazoo Christian (18-1) – The Comets have built on last season’s surprising run to the Quarterfinals with a perfect one through the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley. The only loss came to SAC Lakeshore winner Coloma (17-2), 58-52 on Jan. 23.


Ellsworth (16-3) – Friday’s win over Vanderbilt clinched a shared Northern Lights Conference title for Ellsworth, which improved from finishing runner-up a year ago. The Lancers haven’t had a game closer than 28 points since falling Jan. 26 in their second meeting this season with eventual league co-champ Wolverine (16-1).

Flint International Academy (17-2) – In its first season in the conference, International can clinch the North Central Thumb League Stars championship outright Tuesday against Kinde-North Huron and has won 12 straight including avenging an earlier loss to second-place Dryden (12-6). Two more big wins have come over Kingston (16-3).

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Waterford Mott (16-3) at White Lake Lakeland (15-4) – Both have doubled their win totals from last season, and Mott can clinch the inaugural Lakes Valley Conference title outright.

Thursday – Hazel Park (17-1) at Clarkston (17-1) – The Wolves won the first meeting big, but a Hazel Park return favor would mean a shared Oakland Activities Association Red title as long as neither trips up Tuesday.

Thursday – Grand Rapids Catholic Central (16-1) at Holland West Ottawa (17-2) – These league champions get one more tune up before going their separate ways for the tournament.

Thursday – Benton Harbor (18-1) at Wyoming (15-4) – The Wolves also are a league champ and can get one more test before the Class A tournament against this Class B favorite.

Thursday – Novi (12-7) at Grand Blanc (16-3) – The KLAA championship game will pit Gold champion Grand Blanc against the runner-up Wildcats for the third time after winning the first two meetings. 

PHOTO: Okemos, here against Grand Ledge, clinched a league title last week by finishing a season sweep of East Lansing. (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.)