Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 7

January 23, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This week is expected to see the first MHSAA record fall during a history-making season in Michigan boys basketball.

Powers North Central can both tie and then surpass the 65-game winning streak built by Chassell’s teams from 1956-58. Barring the unexpected, the two-time reigning Class D champion would win its 66th straight on Friday – and then start work on pushing the newly-set record even farther out of reach.

Friday's game will be broadcast live on, and we'll report more on the streak's significance next week. And of course, it's only one of a number of games and teams highlighted in this week’s Breslin Bound report powered by MI Student Aid.

Week in Review

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

1. Detroit East English 71, Detroit Martin Luther King 57 – While its loss to Detroit Osborn on Jan. 13 remains a bit of a shocker, East English has bounced all the way back and with this win improved to 9-1 and moved into a first-place tie with King atop the Detroit Public School League East Division 1.

2. Buckley 50, Frankfort 38 – The Bears earned the upper hand both in the Northwest Conference and among the north’s Class D elite by remaining undefeated in handing Frankfort its first loss this season.

3. Hillsdale 74, Dundee 54 – This also was a meeting of undefeated teams, with Hillsdale prevailing to keep the top spot alone in the Lenawee County Athletic Association while making a nice statement in Class B as well.

4. Mount Pleasant 68, Saginaw 60 – The Oilers took a couple of tough losses early in the Saginaw Valley League North season, but they’re back in second place with this first win over league leader Saginaw since 2010.

5. Benton Harbor 62, Muskegon Heights Academy 60 – Coming off an overtime win over Stevensville Lakeshore, Benton Harbor passed another tough test edging a Heights team that is 8-4.

Watch List

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


Marquette (9-1) – Since falling to Petoskey on opening night, Marquette is unbeaten. The Redmen handed Negaunee its first loss, 57-53, to start last week, and have a two-win lead on the rest of the Great Northern U.P. Conference after finishing second and only 11-9 overall last winter.

Romulus (7-2) – Somewhat quietly, Romulus has re-established itself in the Class A hunt. The Eagles always load their schedule with tough opponents, and although losses came to Clarkston and Detroit U-D Jesuit (combined 18-2), Romulus put up wins last week against Saginaw Arthur Hill, Dearborn Fordson and rival Belleville.


Ludington (8-0) – Counting the end of last season, Ludington has won 15 of its last 16 games, including handing Muskegon Heights Academy (mentioned above) one of its two losses this winter. That win has the Orioles sitting in first place alone in the rebuilt Lakes 8 Athletic Conference.

New Haven (9-1) – Coming off last season’s Quarterfinal march, New Haven is the team to chase in the Macomb Area Conference Blue with its last eight wins all by at least 22 points. That lone loss came by six to Macomb Dakota, a likely contender again after making the Class A Semifinals a year ago.


Norway (10-0) – With the school’s girls team also 10-0, it’s a great time to play basketball at Norway. The boys’ success has included handing Iron Mountain its only loss (48-44) on Dec. 16 and winning the rest of its games this winter by double digits – including 56-44 last week over reigning Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference co-champ Negaunee.

Kalamazoo Hackett (8-0) – A 53-50 win over rival Kalamazoo Christian on Friday was the latest highlight to a perfect start that has Hackett atop the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley standings. Going back to last season’s Quarterfinal run, Hackett has won 32 of its last 33 games.


Carney-Nadeau (6-3) – Life could be easier than playing in the same league as undefeated Powers North Central and one-loss Bark River-Harris, but the Wolves deserve some credit as well for upping the reputation of the Skyline Central Conference West after last week handing Munising its only loss, 59-46. Carney-Nadeau’s losses were to those league frontrunners and Friday at the Milwaukee Academy of Science.

Jackson Christian (6-3) – After opening 2-3 with those losses all to Class C teams with winning records, Jackson Christian has won four straight to take the lead in the Southern Central Athletic Association East. All of the wins have been by 10 or more points, and two of those three losses were by a combined five points.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Wayne Memorial (7-2) at Clarkston (10-0) – Much-improved Wayne can tie last season’s win total with an upset of the Class A-contending Wolves.

Tuesday – Sand Creek (9-0) at Ottawa Lake Whiteford (8-1) – This sounds like a great football matchup, but the boys basketball teams too are tied for first in the Tri-County Conference; Whiteford did beat Sand Creek in football to win the league title in that sport.

Tuesday – St. Johns (8-2) at East Lansing (10-0) – Both are leaders of Capital Area Activities Conference divisions, St. Johns in the Red and East Lansing in the Blue, but this could be a mighty upset for a Redwings team that has won two more games already than all of last season.

Wednesday – Michigan Center (8-0) at Napoleon (8-1) – These two are both undefeated in the Cascades Conference and also part of the same Class C District, making this the first of three possible matchups.

Friday – Bark River-Harris (8-1) at Powers North Central (9-0) – If the Jets beat Rock Mid-Peninsula on Tuesday, this matchup of the leaders in the Skyline Central Conference West could see North Central set the MHSAA boys hoops record with a 66th consecutive victory. 

PHOTO: Mount Pleasant downed Saginaw last week for the first time since 2010. (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.)