Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 7

January 22, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Last week was unkind to many who had enjoyed perfect runs through most of the first half of this boys basketball season.

We started last Monday with 34 unbeaten teams – and ended with only 22, as five of 10 in Class D and three of seven in Class A were among those to suffer first defeats.

Of course, the best teams rarely make it through an entire season unscathed – and often that’s a good thing. Five of eight teams on this week’s “Watch List” below have lost at least once and a couple have three defeats – but are still making major impressions as we roll along toward March.

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 Renaissance 60, Detroit Cass Tech 57 – More on Renaissance’s surge below, but this one announced it as Cass Tech had been in the talk as the best in Class A.

2. Kalamazoo Central 55, Mattawan 47 – The Maroon Giants are quietly off to another strong first half, sitting alone in first in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East after handing Mattawan its first loss of the season.

3. Maple City Glen Lake 54, Frankfort 45 – The Lakers had quite a week, handing Frankfort its first loss to move into a three-way tie atop the Northwest Conference before defeating Lake Michigan Conference leader Traverse City St. Francis two days later.

4. Rochester 71, Berkley 55 – Rochester moved into first place alone in the Oakland Activities Association Blue while handing Berkley its first loss overall.

5. Buckley 62, Manton 60 – These teams went a combined 47-6 last season in both making it to the Breslin Center; they are a combined 13-6 with high aspirations again this winter.

Watch List

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


Detroit Renaissance (8-3) – The Phoenix finished 6-14 only a season ago, but the rise has been sharp and impressive over the last two months. Right after downing Cass Tech last week, Renaissance also defeated Class B contender Detroit Henry Ford – which beat the Phoenix by three Dec. 19. The three loses this season are by a combined nine points; Renaissance fell early by four to Flint Carman-Ainsworth and then by a basket to Ann Arbor Huron in overtime (those two are 15-3 combined).

Okemos (7-3) – Last week’s 60-55 win over East Lansing requires context; Trojans all-stater Brandon Johns was unable to play, reportedly resting a lingering knee injury. Regardless, the victory pushed the Chiefs into a first-place tie with Grand Ledge in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue after Okemos finished fourth and 12-9 overall last season. The only losses this winter were to the Comets, DeWitt and Troy Athens (24-6 combined) in December; the Chiefs are 4-0 in 2018.


Coloma (9-0) – A 54-49 overtime win over nonleague foe Kalamazoo Hackett on Saturday didn’t enhance Coloma’s standing atop the Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore, but did further the Comets’ standing as a team to watch statewide (Hackett fell to 9-2). Coloma improved from five wins two seasons ago to 13 and second in the Lakeshore last winter, and it has a one-game lead on Fennville heading into their second meeting this season Friday. The Comets won the first 71-64 on Dec. 8.

Fremont (7-2) – After two seasons winning only six games apiece, Fremont improved to 13-8 last winter and has continued to climb. The Packers have won five straight to rise to first place in the Central State Activities Association Gold despite suffering a loss to third-place Reed City during a 2-2 start. They are perfect this month and started the run with a 54-49 win over second-place Big Rapids.


Capac (9-0) – The Chiefs have nearly guaranteed their first winning season since 2010-11, and are set up to play for more. Coming off an 8-13 finish a year ago, Capac finds itself tied for first in the Blue Water Area Conference with Richmond, and they’ll meet for the first time next week. The Chiefs handed former co-leader Almont its first league loss Friday, 41-35, and have won six games by double digits.

Ottawa Lake Whiteford (7-2) – The Bobcats’ Division 8 championship football success seems to be following into the winter, as they moved into first place alone in the Tri-County Conference with a 63-42 win over Sand Creek on Thursday. Next up is second-place Petersburg-Summerfield, and a victory would be coach John Rice’s 500th. Whiteford’s only losses this winter are to Class A Temperance Bedford and also much larger Toledo Waite.


Ashley (9-1) – The Bears have run off nine straight victories to move into first place in the Mid-State Activities Conference with a matchup against second-place Carson City-Crystal coming up this week. Ashley won nine games total a year ago – and had 19 victories over the last five seasons combined entering this winter. The lone loss was by only three to Portland St. Patrick in its opener.

Bellevue (8-0) – Last season’s 23-2 run – an improvement of five wins from the solid season before – might have been just another step as the Broncos are surging again. The most impressive win may have come Thursday, 45-39 over Camden-Frontier which sent the Redskins to 9-3. The Broncos also beat Class C Carson City-Crystal and Lakeview to win the Central Montcalm Holiday Hoops Tournament, and have a two-win lead in the Southern Central Athletic Association West.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Grand Rapids Christian (6-2) at East Grand Rapids (9-1) – These two sit together at the top of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold after Christian was first and EGR only fifth last season.

Tuesday – Warren DeLaSalle (7-2) at Detroit U-D Jesuit (8-2) – This will be the first of two meetings (at least) between the current co-leaders of the Detroit Catholic League Central.

Tuesday – Grandville Calvin Christian (7-1) at Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (10-2) – Both should be in the Class C statewide mix again after Covenant was runner-up last season and Calvin was runner-up in 2016.

Tuesday – Coloma (9-0) at Kalamazoo Christian (9-0) – The leaders of the SAC Lakeshore and Valley, respectively, have made similar big moves in their divisions with a similar opportunity to gain a little more statewide acclaim.

Thursday West Bloomfield (5-4) at Clarkston (10-1) – The overall records don’t look close, but West Bloomfield trails the Wolves by just a win in the OAA Red after both made the Class A semifinals last season (and Clarkston won it all).

PHOTO: Ottawa Lake Whiteford coach John Rice provides some pointers for his 7-2 Bobcats. (Photo by Cari Hayes.)

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.)