Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 12

March 2, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

We’re a week from the start of the MHSAA Boys Basketball Tournament, but the playoff atmosphere has taken over these last few weeks of the regular season as well.

Today’s report looks at a number of teams that wrapped up championships over the last seven days and others that have the opportunity to do the same over the next seven before our three-week trip to Breslin Center begins.

“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. Grand Blanc 74, Mount Pleasant 60 – The Bobcats (16-3) added to their Saginaw Valley League Blue title by handing SVL Red champion Mount Pleasant (17-1) its only loss.

2. Orchard Lake St. Mary's 61, Detroit U-D Jesuit 54 – The Eaglets (18-1) added the Bishop Tournament title to their Detroit Catholic League Central championship, which they also earned just ahead of runner-up Jesuit (12-7).

3. Canton 58, Belleville 56 – The West co-runner-up Chiefs (13-6) earned a rematch with champ Howell for the Kensington Lakes Activities Association overall championship by downing the KLAA East-winning Tigers (15-4).  

4. Traverse City Central 35, Traverse City West 32 – The Trojans (16-3) earned themselves an opportunity to claim a share of the Big North Conference title by finishing a sweep of West (7-11) that saw both games decided by a combined five points.

5. Lansing Everett 63, East Lansing 60 – The Vikings (11-9) are guaranteed to finish third in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue, but affected the league title big-time last week by following a 15-point loss to Okemos with this upset of the formerly co-leading Trojans (16-2) that gave the Chiefs the championship outright.  

Watch List

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


Detroit Cass Tech (17-1) Mr. Basketball Award finalist Tyson Acuff has led the Technicians to within a basket of a perfect season so far. Cass Tech defeated Detroit Douglass 66-41 on Feb. 14 to add the Detroit Public School League Tournament title to its PSL West championship, and it’s only slip-up was a one-point loss to Flint Carman-Ainsworth on Dec. 30. Wins over Macomb Dakota (17-3), Saginaw (10-8), Canton (13-6), Mumford (11-8) and East Kentwood (11-8) also are among the most notable.

Flint Carman-Ainsworth (15-5) As noted just above, Carman-Ainsworth handed Cass Tech its lone loss –an accomplishment in itself. But the Cavaliers also gave Goodrich (18-1) its only defeat while picking up a pair of wins over Saginaw and Davison (10-9) and one apiece against Arthur Hill (11-9), Grand Rapids Union (12-7) and Flushing (12-8). Carman-Ainsworth finished behind Grand Blanc in the SVL Blue, and the other three teams it lost to have only one loss apiece – Clarkston, Mount Pleasant and Flint Beecher.


Hudsonville Unity Christian (15-4) The reigning Division 2 champion has had just a few close slip-ups along the way this winter and always bounced back, and clinched the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green title outright by avenging one of those Friday against Byron Center. Those four losses – to Hudsonville, Grand Rapids South Christian, Byron Center and Zeeland East – were by a combined 13 points, and the South Christian defeat came in overtime. The Crusaders do have a two-point win over Holland West Ottawa (13-6) and also defeated first-round District opponent Allendale (13-6) by 16 in December.

Williamston (17-2) A 57-50 loss to Lansing Eastern two weeks ago turned the CAAC Red championship into a shared celebration between the Quakers and Hornets. But it’s been otherwise another strong run as Williamston is up to No. 6 in Division 2 MPR and pushing for what would be a fifth-straight 20-win season. The Hornets’ only other loss came in the opener to East Lansing (16-2), and they beat Eastern (13-5) by 17 in the teams’ first meeting and downed Lansing Catholic (15-4) by 14 also in December. Total, the Hornets have won outright or shared league titles eight straight seasons.


Pewamo-Westphalia (16-1) The reigning Division 3 champion quietly has won 15 straight since suffering its lone loss 61-59 to Laingsburg on Dec. 19. P-W defeated Laingsburg 54-36 in the Feb. 7 rematch and leads the Wolfpack in the Central Michigan Athletic Conference standings by half a game. The Pirates additionally have nice nonleague wins over Clare (14-5), Dearborn Advanced Tech (14-5), Carson City-Crystal (10-8) and Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (12-6) as they prepare for another possible postseason run.

Unionville-Sebewaing (16-2) Despite seeing their 31-game league winning streak snapped by Reese in December, the Patriots bounced back to share the Greater Thumb Conference West title with the Rockets. The only other defeat came to Division 2 contender Bridgeport (18-1), although the Patriots will tune up with another tough Division 2 opponent Tuesday at Clio (14-5). USA also has 20-plus point wins over GTC East co-leaders Harbor Beach and Sandusky, and over the 16 wins only Bad Axe has gotten within single digits of the Patriots. USA won their first meeting by one, but Friday’s rematch by 12.


Camden-Frontier (16-3) The Redskins trail Hillsdale Academy by a game in the Southern Central Athletic Association East with two to play. But they rank No. 6 in Division 4 MPR, one spot ahead of Hillsdale Academy, thanks in part to splits with the Colts (17-2) and Reading (15-4) and a win over Battle Creek St. Philip (13-6). The only other loss came to Bellevue (16-2). One more win will give Camden-Frontier 17 for the third season in a row, and 18 would be a program high over at least the last decade.

Webberville (14-4) The Spartans are tied for second with Division 3 Burton Bendle (16-3) behind Flint Beecher (18-1) in the Genesee Area Conference – impressive, especially considering Webberville won the second game against Bendle 72-59 on Jan. 28. Webberville last week handed Division 2 Ovid-Elsie (18-1) its lone loss, further justifying it as a team to watch over the next few weeks against opponents its size. The Spartans won 16 games both of the last two seasons and also won their District in 2019, so they could be set to take another step.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Portage Central (16-2) at Stevensville Lakeshore (15-4) – Both sit 8-1 in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West play, with this game's winner claiming the title outright. Portage Central won the first round 41-35.

Tuesday – Grand Blanc (16-3) at Flint Beecher (18-1) – The Flint area has thrived this season with Carman-Ainsworth and Southwestern also providing big boosts, but this has been the most highly-anticipated matchup between the best in and around the city.  

Tuesday – Ypsilanti Lincoln (16-2) vs. Ann Arbor Huron (18-1) at Eastern Michigan University – The champions of the Southeastern Conference White and Red, respectively, meet in a potential District Final preview.

Thursday – Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (18-1) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (17-1) – As mentioned in discussing both above, this brings together the best of the Catholic League and PSL for the annual Operation Friendship.

Thursday – Benton Harbor (16-2) at Wyoming (18-1) – Both championship hopefuls will enjoy one last test heading into the postseason, Benton Harbor a contender in Division 2 and Wyoming in Division 1.

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: Williamston, here during its first meeting with Haslett, finished a season sweep of the Vikings last week on the way to claiming a share of a league title. (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.)