Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 3

December 18, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The third week of this Michigan high school boys basketball season was topsy-turvy, to say the least.

The first month of the season always includes a lot of sorting out as top teams face off in nonleague play – and in the end, of course, the most important games are when those teams potentially meet again at the end of the winter. 

But after how some of the state’s best took turns defeating each other last week, we might have a hard time knowing what to expect down the road.

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. Okemos 63, Rockford 29 – The headliner of the Battle of I-96 Classic at Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills went to Okemos, which moved to 6-0 with its second-biggest victory of the season.

2. Rockford 65, Muskegon 47 – This Friday night stunner of the annually contending Big Reds was set for the top spot on this list until Saturday’s matchup with the Chiefs; Rockford fell to Muskegon by 16 a year ago.

3. Grand Rapids Catholic Central 50, Grand Rapids Christian 45 – The was expected to be the big game of the week for the Cougars, but wasn’t even their closest as they then survived with a two-point overtime win over Grand Rapids Covenant Christian on Friday.

4. Detroit U-D Jesuit 57, Grand Blanc 44 – The Cubs have had one of the toughest early schedules in the state, and this win was made more impressive when Grand Blanc beat Flint Carman-Ainsworth by 10 to end the week.

5. Ann Arbor Skyline 66, Belleville 56 – The Eagles came back from a loss earlier in the week to Sterling Heights Stevenson to win their fifth straight against Belleville, which rebounded last season to make the Class A Quarterfinals.

Watch List

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


• Grand Rapids Northview (3-0) – The Wildcats have held on through three overtimes over their last two games to keep a perfect start intact, the most recent Friday in a 77-69 win over always-powerful Wyoming Godwin Heights. Northview is looking to take another step after improving five wins to 15-7 last winter.

• Utica Eisenhower (5-0) – The Eagles have nearly equaled last season’s seven wins and haven’t played a game in single digits since defeating Romeo by five on opening night. Eisenhower can make an even louder statement tonight against another quick starter in Sterling Heights Stevenson.


• Alma (6-0) – The Panthers are off to another fast start in trying to build on last season’s league and District championships. Alma has three double-digit wins but also has pulled out victories of six or fewer points against Fowlerville, Frankenmuth (in overtime) and Carrollton.

• Williamston (6-0) – The Hornets can make an argument as the Lansing area’s best team and have high aspirations after going 22-3 and falling to eventual champion Benton Harbor in the Quarterfinals last season. Despite needing overtime against Howell last week, Williamston is winning this winter by nearly 19 points per game.


• Carson City-Crystal (5-0) – The Eagles have shared three straight Mid-State Activities Conference championships and already own a one-win advantage in the league standings this winter thanks to a 47-41 win over reigning co-champ Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart two weeks ago. A 46-35 win over Division 2 Lansing Eastern last week was eye-catching.

• Hanover-Horton (5-0) – League titles and 20-win seasons are frequent accomplishments for the Comets, and they appear on the way toward chasing both again. Hanover-Horton took a big step toward repeating as Cascades Conference champ with a 66-56 win over reigning league runner-up Michigan Center last week – the Comets’ closest game so far.


• Bessemer (4-1) – The Speedboys fell from sharing a league title two seasons ago to finishing third last winter, but look like the team to chase in the Copper Mountain Conference’s Porcupine Mountain division again. Bessemer handed 2017-18 Class D semifinalist Dollar Bay a 73-60 loss last week, Dollar Bay’s first regular-season defeat since Feb. 17, 2017.

• Carney-Nadeau (4-0) – The Wolves frequently are league title contenders but might be the team to beat in the Skyline Central Conference Small-school division. Although the 61-43 win Thursday against Powers North Central did not count in the league standings, it was a good sign against the reigning league champ.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Detroit Martin Luther King (2-0) at Detroit Cass Tech (3-1) – The last time these two met, King advanced in last season’s District with a two-point overtime win. They are back in the same league this winter.

Tuesday – Clinton Township Clintondale (5-0) at Madison Heights Madison (6-0) – It’s early in the Macomb Area Conference Silver, but this could end up one of the most meaningful games of the league schedule.

Tuesday – Utica Eisenhower (5-0) at Sterling Heights Stevenson (4-1) – Noted above as well, this could be telling as the MAC Red gets rolling. League foes Roseville and Macomb Dakota also are off to strong starts.

Tuesday – Escanaba (3-1) at Marquette (4-2) – Marquette swept Escanaba to win last season’s Great Northern Upper Peninsula Conference title by one victory.

Wednesday – Wyoming Godwin Heights (1-3) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (3-0) – Against strong competition, Godwin Heights is off to a slow start. But it’s all relative, and GRCC won’t take the Wolverines lightly.

Second Half’s weekly “Countdown to Calvin” 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: Alma is off to an unbeaten start this winter, earning a victory last week over Essexville Garber. (Click to see 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.)