Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 6

January 16, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

As conference races begin to heat up on both peninsulas, the best of the best are starting to show it against arguably their toughest opponents – those most familiar.

Our top game from last week in this week's Breslin Bound report – powered by MI Student Aid – features two such neighbors facing off again as they have for decades, while a number of rivals also saw each other for the first of two meetings this season.

Week in Review

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

1. Saginaw 62, Saginaw Arthur Hill 49 – This annually is one of the state’s best rivalries, and the Trojans have the edge in the Saginaw Valley League North with the rematch coming Feb. 3.

2. Detroit East English 73, Kalamazoo Central 63 – After being stunned by Detroit Osborn on Friday, East English came back to win the premier game of the Floyd Mayweather Classic at Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills on Saturday.

3. Wyoming Godwin Heights 114, Wyoming Kelloggsville 75 – The Ottawa-Kent Conference Silver includes three teams from Wyoming that are a combined 20-2, but Godwin Heights remains the leader at 8-0.

4. East Lansing 70, Holt 66 – The undefeated Trojans should be contenders in Class A, and now have survived a second challenge in the strong Capital Area Activities Conference Blue.

5. St. Clair Shores Lake Shore 56, St. Clair 38 – Lake Shore, sitting in first place in the Macomb Area Conference Silver, handed then-MAC Gold leader St. Clair its first loss.

Watch List

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


Saginaw (7-1) – The Trojans opted up to play in Class A again despite an enrollment of just fewer than 600. And they’ll again be in the mix, judging from last week’s 62-49 win over Arthur Hill; the lone loss was to Chicago Orr, which also has wins over Detroit Martin Luther King and Pershing.

Wayne Memorial (7-1) – After finishing 8-14 only a season ago, Wayne has asserted itself atop the Kensington Lakes Activities Association South. Friday’s one-point win over Canton put the Zebras in first alone and the Chiefs in second. 


Benton Harbor (9-0) – The Tigers are looking like a challenger in Class B again after a step back, relatively speaking, to 15-6 last season. Last week showed plenty – a 55-45 win over Class A Battle Creek Central and an overtime win over struggling but recently successful Stevensville Lakeshore.

Richmond (7-1) – Better known for football and wrestling, Richmond finished third in the Blue Water Area Conference last season but has an early leg up with a win over co-champion Imlay City and that other co-champ, Yale, coming up Tuesday. 


Gobles (8-2) – The Tigers’ defeats have come to Class B one-loss teams Fennville and Wyoming Lee, and they are closing in on last season’s 12-win total. The rematch with Fennville comes Jan. 31 and could end up deciding the champion in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore.

Negaunee (7-0) – The Miners have won all of their games by at least 16 and six by at least 21 points to keep pace with also-undefeated Norway in the Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference. Negaunee split the league title last year with Iron Mountain, winning its first 19 before losing its final two games. 


Fowler (6-1) – The Eagles took a mid-December loss to Bath, but remain the mix in the Central Michigan Athletic Conference after last week’s 63-56 win over rival and 2016 Class D semifinalist Fulton.

Deckerville (6-2) – These Eagles are looking to challenge Dryden again after splitting the North Central Thumb League title last season, and will circle the March 2 rematch with the Class C Cardinals after falling to them Dec. 12.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Monday – Negaunee (7-0) at Marquette (7-1) – Two Upper Peninsula league leaders will face off in one of the north’s top nonleague matchups this season. 

Tuesday – Detroit Martin Luther King (6-1) at Detroit East English (7-1) – First place in the Detroit Public School League East Division 1, and superiority in the league as a whole, could be at stake.

Tuesday – Buckley (5-0) at Frankfort (5-0) – The Northwest Conference co-leaders are also potentially two of the best in all of Class D. 

Tuesday – Dundee (9-0) at Hillsdale (8-0) – These two lead the Lenawee County Athletic Association and also are rising up the ranks in Class B.

Tuesday – Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (7-1) at Detroit U-D Jesuit (6-2) – The Eaglets are in the Detroit Catholic League Central conversation again, and can take a commanding step against the reigning Class A champion.

PHOTO: Deckerville, attempting a shot, earned a win over Sandusky earlier this season and sit 6-2. (Click to see more from Varsity Monthly.)

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.)