Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 7

January 14, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This week will see many of Michigan’s high school boys basketball teams cross the midpoint of their seasons, and things are starting to move quickly.

Most will finish Saturday at least 10 games into their schedules and with Districts beginning six weeks from tonight – which seems a long way off until you consider this season is already eight weeks old.  

Expect to see District brackets added to the MHSAA Website this week and first-round games added to team schedules. 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 Catholic Central 69, Okemos 57 – The Shamrocks handed Okemos its first loss after a 10-0 start, and on the Chiefs’ home court, as they prepped for this week’s Detroit Catholic League Central clash with first-place Detroit U-D Jesuit.

2. Kalamazoo Central 46, Grand Blanc 43 – The Maroon Giants are just a two-point loss to Detroit Martin Luther King from undefeated and earned another impressive win in this one over the leader in the Saginaw Valley League Blue.

3. Hudsonville Unity Christian 63, Holland Christian 42 – Two-time reigning champ Unity Christian has the early upper hand in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green after handing rival Holland Christian its first loss of this winter.

4. Belleville 81, Westland John Glenn 78 (OT) – These two remain among four tied for first in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East after a matchup that saw Connor Bush score 26 for Belleville and Joe Moon IV score 44 for John Glenn to go over 1,000 for his career and break the school record for points in a game set in 1966.

5. Bellevue 57, Camden-Frontier 47 – Bellevue remains undefeated and atop the Southern Central Athletic Association West, while Camden-Frontier took its first loss this season but holds a slight lead in the SCAA East.

Watch List

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


• Mattawan (9-0) – The Wildcats have gone one better than their 8-0 start last season, and now will look to best their final 15-7 mark from a year ago. Mattawan leads the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West thanks to a 56-50 double-overtime win over second-place Stevensville Lakeshore on Friday. The Wildcats last season finished second in the SMAC East last season to Kalamazoo Central; those two meet in a nonleague game Feb. 5.

• Oxford (9-0) – These Wildcats have bested already last season’s final 8-14 record. And instead of tying for last in the Oakland Activities Association White like last season, they are tied for the lead in the OAA Blue. Oxford has won five straight games by double figures and takes on league co-leader Pontiac on Thursday.


• Bridgeport (8-0) – The Bearcats, Class B quarterfinalists a year ago, are pursuing their third straight Tri-Valley Conference East title and beat rival Frankenmuth 70-41 last week to kick off the league schedule. That big win followed up an impressive 82-69 victory over Detroit Renaissance at the Detroit Public School League Holiday Hoops Classic, and Bridgeport also owns a notable win over Detroit Henry Ford.

• Richmond (11-0) – Known most as a wrestling school perhaps, Richmond also boasts a boys basketball team that has won at least 16 games four straight seasons and is the reigning champ in the Blue Water Area Conference. This start has outdone any of the others from recent seasons, and the Blue Devils already own a one-game lead in the BWAC thanks to a 60-44 win over second-place Yale on Dec. 14. 


• Clinton Township Clintondale (9-1) – A 12-point loss to league leader Madison Heights Madison on Dec. 18 is all that’s kept Clintondale from a perfect start and first place in the Macomb Area Conference Silver – and the Dragons get a second chance against Madison on Thursday. An opening win this season over Royal Oak Shrine is one of only two losses for the Knights and looking more and more like a good indication Clintondale will improve substantially on last year’s 12-10 finish. 

• Quincy (9-0) – The two-time reigning league champ Orioles have charged into first place in the Big 8 Conference with wins against both second-place teams, Union City and Homer. Quincy finished 18-5 a year ago but lost to Homer in the District Final. The Orioles also have dealt nonleague foe Adrian Lenawee Christian one of its two defeats this winter. 


• Bellevue (9-0) – The Broncos are a combined 54-4 over the last two-plus seasons and have won three straight league titles. As noted above, they lead the SCAA West and handed Camden-Frontier its first defeat last week; the Broncos then knocked Pittsford out of first in the SMAC East with a 10-point win Saturday. Circle Jan. 25, the first of two meetings between Bellevue and also-undefeated league rival Athens.

• Pellston (9-1) – The Hornets are tied for first in the Ski Valley Conference with Gaylord St. Mary, and will face the Snowbirds for the first time Wednesday after last week’s schedule meeting was postponed. Pellston’s defeat came by just two points to Division 3 Mancelona, and seven of its nine wins were by 30 or more points.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Macomb Dakota (8-1) at Roseville (9-1) – Coming off a big win over Sterling Heights Stevenson last week, MAC Red leader Dakota must continue the surge after beating Roseville 55-52 last month in their first meeting.

Thursday – Pontiac (11-0) at Oxford (9-0) – As noted above, these two are tied for first in the OAA Blue, and Pontiac obviously also has had a noteworthy start including an early victory over OAA Red leader Clarkston.

Friday – Detroit Cass Tech (7-3) at Detroit Martin Luther King (9-1) – The Technicians lead the PSL Midtown division by a win over King, with this their only meeting before a potential PSL Tournament rematch.

Friday – Okemos (10-1) at DeWitt (8-1) – Okemos can’t let the sting of last week’s first loss last long, as DeWitt is tied with the Chiefs for first in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue.

Saturday – Flint Beecher (9-0) vs. River Rouge (7-1) at Warren Fitzgerald – The most intriguing of a strong slate at the Horatio Williams Freedom Classic pits strong statewide contenders in Divisions 3 and 2, respectively.

Second Half’s weekly “Breslin Bound” 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: Although Clinton Township Chippewa Valley made the stop on this drive, Utica Eisenhower went on to a 44-33 win in the MAC Red last Tuesday. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)

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.)