Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 2

December 18, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

It's difficult to draw much from the first two weeks of a four-month basketball season. 

But it doesn't take long to sense a turnaround coming (see Detroit Mumford below) or a new championship contender on the rise (hello Grand Rapids Catholic Central?). This week's installment includes a few more teams that quickly have made an impression, to carry us through the end of 2017. 

Breslin Bound is powered by MI Student Aid, and will return during the first week of January. These reports are based on results and schedules posted for each school at – to offer corrections, email me at [email protected]

Week in Review

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

1. Grand Rapids Catholic Central 73, Grand Rapids Christian 49 – The Cougars reversed a 39-point loss suffered last season to the eventual Class A runner-up.

2. Hazel Park 74, Detroit U-D Jesuit 63 – Last week a win over Detroit East English got Hazel Park on this list, and this time it’s a double-digit victory over the Cubs (20-4 last season).

3. Dansville 42, Pewamo-Westphalia 34 – The Aggies followed a win over Class B Detroit Osborn with this one over reigning Central Michigan Athletic Conference champion P-W, which beat Dansville by 18 and two points in their meetings last season.

4. Saginaw 69, Saginaw Arthur Hill 61 – The Trojans bounced back from an early-week loss to Detroit Renaissance to beat the rival Lumberjacks for the seventh straight time since falling to them during the 2014-15 postseason.

5. Warren DeLaSalle 77, West Bloomfield 67 – The Pilots have played two of their first three games against teams that made at least the MHSAA Semifinals last season, winning this one over the Class A  Lakers.

Watch List

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


Mount Pleasant (3-0) – The Oilers improved to post upper-division finishes in the formerly two-division Saginaw Valley League the last two seasons, going 15-9 overall last winter. All of the SVL will play in one division this winter, and Mount Pleasant is off to a nice start with three double-digit wins including a 22-pointer over a Midland Dow team it split with last season.

Troy (3-0) – The Colts play in a tough Oakland Activities Association Red that includes Clarkston, West Bloomfield and Hazel Park among others, but they could be in the mix after reaching the Quarterfinals (and falling there to West Bloomfield) last winter. Troy finished last week by handing rival Athens its first loss, 66-58.


Detroit Mumford (4-0) – With one more win, Mumford will be halfway to bettering last season’s 9-12 finish. The Mustangs have three straight double-digit wins after beating St. Clair Shores South Lake, Oak Park and Warren Michigan Collegiate on successive days over the weekend.

Spring Lake (3-0) – Back-to-back overtime wins over Class A teams has Spring Lake riding high. The Lakers got past Rockford 48-46 and Grand Haven 69-66 last week as they prepped for the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue season and powerhouse Grand Rapids Catholic Central – which Spring Lake eliminated in last year’s Regional Final after finishing third to the Cougars in league play.


Houghton Lake (2-0) – They are only two games win, but a 35-28 overtime win over Beaverton on Thursday should have the Bobcats’ spirits high. The Beavers were runners-up in the Jack Pine Conference last season and Houghton Lake came in fifth after losing to Beaverton by 29 and 23.

Iron Mountain (4-0) – The Mountaineers might be the favorites in the Mid-Peninsula Conference after finishing third last winter despite going 2-1 (including a District win) over co-champion Norway. The Knights left the league this year, but Iron Mountain surely still enjoyed taking a 48-40 win from them Friday.


Bear Lake (3-0) – Only two weeks into the season, the Lakers are making some noise in the West Michigan D. They sit atop the conference after opening with a 12-point win over reigning champion Baldwin, and that’s been by far Bear Lake’s closest game. The Lakers finished 15-7 overall and tied for third in the league last season.

Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (4-0) – As usual, Tri-unity will play a wide variety of opponents including many larger to prepare for the postseason, a strategy that frequently pays off. One of the losses it took last year on the way to the Quarterfinals was against Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian, and Tri-unity avenged with a 49-41 win Friday.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Flint Hamady (3-0) at Flint Beecher (3-1) – The reigning Class C champion Buccaneers took three from their rivals last season, but one meeting by only four points.

Tuesday – McBain (2-0) at Buckley (1-1) – Although the Bears took a four-point loss on opening night two weeks ago, both of these teams were perfect for the regular season last winter and Buckley is the reigning Class D runner-up.

Wednesday – Grand Rapids Catholic Central (3-0) at Wyoming Godwin Heights (2-0) – By early returns, these are looking like two of the best teams from Grand Rapids and two of the state’s best in Class B as well.

Dec. 26 – Detroit Martin Luther King (2-0) vs. Southfield Christian (2-1) at Cass Tech – Southfield Christian was a last-second basket from playing for the Class D title last season and can see how it stacks up against the Class A Crusaders.

Dec. 29 – Saginaw (1-1) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (2-0) at Detroit Renaissance – There are high expectations for the Technicians, making this matchup with an annual power arguably the most intriguing at the Motor City Roundball Classic. 

PHOTO: Spring Lake got past Grand Haven in overtime last week to stay undefeated. (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.)