Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 6

January 15, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

We’re heading into the midpoint of this boys basketball season, and the surprises keep coming.

Detroit Henry Ford and Grand Ledge were full of them last week, and Berkley has been one of the state’s most intriguing all season. We touch on those a little bit below, along with a number of others that most recently caught our attention.

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. Detroit Henry Ford 63, Detroit Cass Tech 60 – The Trojans should be back in the Class B title talk after handing a first loss to one of the major favorites in Class A.

2. Grand Ledge 59, East Lansing 53 – The Comets are 6-1 but weren’t getting much attention until this upset broke East Lansing’s 45-game regular-season winning streak.

3. Frankfort 69, Buckley 53 – The Panthers handed the reigning Class D runner-up this defeat after falling to Buckley by 39 and then only three last season.

4. Detroit Cass Tech 85, Muskegon 78 (OT) – The Technicians did not waste time bouncing back from the Henry Ford loss, downing Muskegon in overtime the next day at Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills.

5. Macomb Dakota 64, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 62 – The Cougars took big losses early to Detroit U-D Jesuit and New Haven, but are undefeated in the Macomb Area Conference Red after handing Chippewa Valley its first defeat in the league and overall this winter.

Watch List

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


Ann Arbor Skyline (7-0) – The Eagles have been building toward a start like this, even winning the Southeastern Conference Red title a year ago. They started the new year with a 20-point win over second-place Ann Arbor Pioneer on Saturday and have impressive wins by 14 over Belleville, one over Detroit Pershing and 20 over frequent nemesis Ann Arbor Huron.

Berkley (8-0) – The Bears have doubled their win total from last season after going 4-17, and they’re only a few more from guaranteeing a first winning season since 2010-11. They’ve pulled off a few close ones including a two-point victory over MAC Bronze leader Madison Heights Madison a month ago. Next up is Rochester with first place in the Oakland Activities Association Blue on the line.  


Detroit Henry Ford (7-2) – The 2015-16 Class B champion still made the Regional last season despite finishing 13-11 overall, and another big run could be on the way. Ford opened this season with a two-point win over 2017 Class A semifinalist West Bloomfield, and has beaten a series of Class A teams including Cass Tech (see above). The losses came to Class A powers Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills and Hazel Park, the latter in overtime.

Ovid-Elsie (5-1) – The Marauders have hovered around .500 the last few seasons, but might have something more in store over the next two months after a fast start. Ovid-Elsie sits atop the Tri-Valley Conference West standings and hasn’t lost since its opener (to still-undefeated Fowler). Coming up Friday is a matchup with second-place Hemlock.


Norway (5-2) – The Knights moved over to the Skyline Central Conference after sharing the Mid-Peninsula Conference title last season and finishing 18-3 overall. They’ve won four straight and hold a half-game lead in the SCC’s Large School division. The two losses came in December in overtime to Powers North Central and by eight to nemesis Iron Mountain, which knocked Norway out of the tournament last season. Those two will face off again Feb. 9.

Sanford Meridian (7-1) – The Mustangs are playing for a second straight Jack Pine Conference championship and already have wins against usual annual contenders Beaverton and Clare. Meridian’s only loss was by 10 in early December to Class A Saginaw Heritage, and it’s got another similar test coming up against Midland Dow in two weeks.  


Cedarville (7-2) – The Trojans are approaching the season’s midpoint in position to take back the Eastern Upper Peninsula Athletic Conference title after tying for second a year ago. Cedarville got past reigning champion Pickford 67-59 last week and has lost only to undefeated Hillman and Class B Boyne City.

Frankfort (6-0) – The Northwest Conference sent Buckley all the way to the Class D title game last year, and early this winter it’s Frankfort that could be setting up for a run. The Panthers held onto first place all alone in the league last week with a win over the Bears, and now face the other two teams with only one conference loss – Kingsley on Tuesday and Maple City Glen Lake on Thursday.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Rapid River (7-0) at Powers North Central (6-1) – The Rockets ended North Central’s record 84-game winning streak Dec. 7, but the Jets can make it six straight by taking the rematch.

Tuesday – Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (7-2) at Warren DeLaSalle (6-2) – In a strong Detroit Catholic League Central, these are two of the best; DeLaSalle leads and St. Mary’s is third after falling to second-place U-D Jesuit by a point last week.

Thursday – Bellevue (8-0) at Camden-Frontier (8-2) – Both are pushing for Southern Central Athletic Association titles; Bellevue is tied for first in the West and Camden-Frontier is second in the East, and this game counts in the standings for both.

Thursday – Maple City Glen Lake (5-1) at Frankfort (6-0) – The Panthers also must survive Kingsley on Tuesday to keep their perfect start going, and Glen Lake is aiming to gain a share of first place in the Northwest Conference too.

Friday – Hazel Park (8-0) at West Bloomfield (3-3) – Hazel Park and reigning Class A champion Clarkston have been the talk of a strong OAA Red, but West Bloomfield also is undefeated in league play after opening with three tough nonleague losses including two by only two points apiece.

PHOTO: Berkley, here against Clawson in December, is one of this season’s biggest surprises. (Photo courtesy of C&G Newspapers.)

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.)