Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 12

February 19, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

We’re almost there. In fact, by delaying this week’s Breslin Bound report until Tuesday, we’re a day closer to the end of this boys basketball regular season and beginning of District play Monday.

But a few league championships remain undecided, and there is still plenty to cover before we switch gears to the postseason.

Next week, we’ll preview the most intriguing District brackets in every division. Click here to get an early look at those matchups.  

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. Benton Harbor 72, River Rouge 62 – The Tigers won again in this rematch from last season’s Class B Semifinals – and possible preview of a Division 2 matchup coming next month.

2. New Haven 64, Roseville 55 – The Rockets won the Macomb Area Conference Red/White Tournament title by defeating one Red co-champ in this game after defeating the other Sterling Heights Stevenson in the semifinal.

3. Detroit U-D Jesuit 63, Detroit Catholic Central 54 – The Cubs finished a perfect run through both the Detroit Catholic League Central and then A-B Tournament bracket, with DCC finishing second in both.

4. Detroit Cass Tech 80, Detroit Renaissance 56 – The Technicians have won nine of their last 11 games and with this victory added a Detroit Public School League Tournament title to a shared Midtown championship.

5. Muskegon 66, Kalamazoo Central 59 – The Big Reds claimed this matchup of league leaders to extend their winning streak to 11.

Watch List

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


• Detroit U-D Jesuit (17-2) – The Cubs have won 11 straight games, with the most notable of the run against DCC twice and Flint Beecher by a point on Jan. 26. The only losses this winter came early, against New Haven on Dec. 1 and then Illinois championship contender Chicago Morgan Park on Jan. 5. Jesuit has reached the MHSAA Quarterfinals five straight seasons and could be on the verge of running that streak to six.

• Ann Arbor Pioneer (17-2) – The Pioneers, 11-10 a season ago, have locked up the Southeastern Conference Red title in a league where four of six teams have winning records. They added an impressive 56-44 win over the weekend against PSL Midtown co-champ Detroit Martin Luther King. The only losses came before the new year, against eventual league winners Canton and Wayne Memorial.


• Fremont (16-1) – A 60-59 overtime win over Grant on Friday clinched the Central State Activities Association Gold title, Fremont’s second straight after sharing last season with Big Rapids. This championship is outright, ironically after the Packers opened league play with their only defeat Dec. 7 to Reed City. Next up, Fremont will go for a second straight District title as well.  

• Ovid-Elsie (15-1) – The Marauders have clinched a share of the inaugural Mid-Michigan Activities Conference championship, avenging their lone loss of the season Friday with a 69-66 double-overtime victory over second-place (tied) Mount Morris. Ovid-Elsie can clinch outright against the other second-place team, New Lothrop, on Thursday. The Marauders entered the new league coming off last season’s Tri-Valley Conference West title, and they too will play next week for a second straight District trophy.


• Iron Mountain (17-0) – The Mountaineers have followed up on last season’s Class C Quarterfinal run with the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Iron title, plus a repeat championship in the Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference. Three of Iron Mountain’s first four games this winter were decided by single digits – they haven’t had another closer than 10 since Dec. 7.

• Maple City Glen Lake (16-2) – The Lakers clinched an outright Northwest Conference title with a win over Benzie Central on Saturday and have won six straight since falling to Division 2 Williamston at Saginaw Valley State on Jan. 21. The only other defeat was to another strong Division 2 opponent, Holland Christian, on Dec. 28. Both losses no doubt served as great prep as Glen Lake looks to get back to Breslin after finishing Class C runner-up a year ago.


• Dollar Bay (16-3) – After making the Class D Semifinals coming off a perfect regular season in 2018, the Blue Bolts started this one slowly (relatively speaking) at 4-2. But they’ve won nine straight and clinched a share of the Copper Mountain Conference Copper Country championship, with a chance to finish the title outright Friday if they can avenge an earlier loss to Chassell. Dollar Bay also won’t see nemesis Bessemer (the other two defeats) until possibly the Regional if both advance next week.

• Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (15-3) – The Defenders sit second in the Alliance League thanks to a one-point loss Jan. 22 to Division 3 and league leader Potter’s House Christian. But Tri-unity could make another of its usual long postseason runs, especially with Potter’s House in a different division after eliminating the Defenders in the District a year ago. Tri-unity’s only other losses were to Division 3 Pewamo-Westphalia and Grandville Calvin Christian.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – McBain (14-3) at Manton (13-4) – McBain’s 45-42 win on Feb. 5 has the Ramblers still sitting atop the Highland Conference standings, but a Manton win could result in a shared championship when this week is done.

Thursday – Howell (14-5) at Canton (18-1) – The overall Kensington Lakes Activities Association championship game pits the top two teams from the West division.

Friday – DeWitt (16-2) at Okemos (17-1) – The Chiefs own a share of the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue title thanks in part to a 41-35 win over the Panthers on Jan. 18, but DeWitt can grab a share by winning this rematch.

Friday – Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (18-0) at Grand Rapids Northview (14-3) – FHN won the first meeting 64-53 on Jan. 25, but a Northview win could mean a shared Ottawa-Kent Conference White title or more if Northern gets upset Tuesday.

Friday – Detroit Cass Tech (14-5) vs. Detroit U-D Jesuit (17-2) at Calihan Hall – The annual Operation Friendship game pits PSL and Catholic League champs and likely Division 1 state contenders as well.

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: Iron Mountain's Marcus Johnson works to get to the basket during a Feb. 1 win over Ishpeming. Iron Mountain is one of 14 unbeaten teams left statewide. (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.)