Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 7

January 27, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Michigan’s high school boys basketball teams are this week reaching the regular-season’s midpoint and the heart of league play from the Ohio and Indiana borders to the top tip of the Upper Peninsula.

You’ll see that move toward emphasizing conference play reflected in much of this week’s Breslin Bound report – although it’s tough to not be most excited about another showcase coming up this weekend that will match up championship contenders from two of the MHSAA’s four divisions.

“Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at Send corrections or missing scores to [email protected].

Week in Review

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

1. Flint Beecher 70, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 61 – The Bucs moved up to No. 2 in Division 3 MPR with a major win over the No. 2 team in Division 2 at the Horatio Williams Freedom Classic.

2. Clarkston 55, Detroit King 41 – The Wolves also made Freedom Classic headlines with arguably their best of a solid set of wins this winter.

3. Gaylord St. Mary 59, Pellston 54 – The Snowbirds pushed back into the Ski Valley Conference mix by handing the first loss this season to Pellston.

4. Grand Blanc 80, Kalamazoo Central 73 – The Bobcats are now 9-3 against one of the toughest schedules in the state, and followed up this Friday win with another seven-point over Ferndale on Saturday.

5. Traverse City West 47, Cadillac 46 – The Titans are only 5-6 overall but could make a move in the Big North Conference after handing co-leader Cadillac its first loss this season.

Watch List

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


Hamtramck (9-2) The Cosmos have flown a bit under the radar, but sit second in the Michigan Metro Athletic Conference Blue with an opportunity to make a loud statement. Hamtramck fell to league leader River Rouge 54-49 on Jan. 10, but a win in the rematch Tuesday arguably would be one of the program’s best in some time. The Cosmos’ only other defeat this season came to Warren De La Salle Collegiate, 65-62 in overtime Dec. 20.

Mount Pleasant (10-0) Reigning Saginaw Valley League Red champion Mount Pleasant is off to another fantastic start after winning its first 18 games last season. A 66-58 win over SVL Blue co-leader Flint Carman-Ainsworth a week ago was particularly impressive, even as the only single-digit victory surrounded by much larger margins in the Oilers’ other nine games.     


Croswell-Lexington (10-1) A three point December loss to 9-1 Flint Southwestern is all that has kept Croswell-Lexington from perfection this winter – and only a few others have come close to breaking up the success. The Pioneers have nine double-digit wins and Friday against Almont can finish an unbeaten first half in the Blue Water Area Conference.

Fremont (10-0) The Packers’ 102 points last week against Howard City Tri County likely caught even casual fans’ attentions. But it was just a highlight from a greater body of work that is setting Fremont up for a run at a third straight Central State Activities Association Gold title. The Packers are perfect through the first run of the league schedule, thanks in part to a three-point win over Newaygo and four-pointer over Grant. Fremont also downed Lakes 8 Activities Conference co-leader Ludington.


Hanover-Horton (7-1) The Comets face Napoleon on Wednesday for first place in the Cascades Conference as they continue to pursue a third-straight league championship. All seven wins so far have been by 10 points or more, and the one defeat looks pretty good too – 68-66 to Division 1 one-loss Grand Rapids Union. A Feb. 10 matchup with Ypsilanti Arbor Prep could be telling of the team’s possibilities come tournament time.

Ravenna (10-0) The Bulldogs have climbed from six to 11 to 15 wins, respectively, over the last three seasons, and seem likely to continue the rise after a flawless first half. Ravenna leads the West Michigan Conference by a game over Muskegon Oakridge, which gave the Bulldogs their closest game so far – a six-point battle Jan. 16.


Alanson (8-1) Alanson improved from five wins in 2017-18 to 10 last season and could equal that latter total before the end of January. The Vikings are undefeated since falling to Bellaire 61-54 in their season opener, and they’ve hung tough in tight times with three wins by three points or fewer. That success has sent Alanson into a tie for first place in the Northern Lakes Conference with Ellsworth, which hosts the Vikings on Friday.

Hillsdale Academy (8-1) After playing in the 2018 Class D Semifinals but falling back to 9-13 last season, the Colts rank No. 5 in Division 4 MPR and sit tied for first in the Southern Central Athletic Association East despite losing Dec. 19 to co-leader Camden-Frontier. Hillsdale Academy will get another chance at C-F on Feb. 11 and also can boast a win over SCAA West co-leader Bellevue.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Hudsonville (9-0) at Holland West Ottawa (8-2) – The reigning Ottawa-Kent Conference Red champion Eagles will try to hold off second-place West Ottawa in the first of their two meetings.

Tuesday – Iron Mountain (9-0) at Negaunee (10-0) – The Mountaineers took three wins from the Miners last season, outpacing them to win the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Iron and then eliminating Negaunee in a Regional Semifinal.

Friday – Oscoda (9-0) at Mio (8-1) – The two top teams in the North Star League Big Dipper again, Mio is just behind reigning champion Oscoda after the Owls won the first matchup Dec. 12.

Friday – Stevensville Lakeshore (9-0) at Portage Central (8-0) – This matchup for first place winds up the first half of the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West schedule.

Saturday – Ypsilanti Lincoln (7-1) vs. Benton Harbor (9-1) at Grand Rapids City – The headlining matchup of the Redhawk Showcase Classic might be one of the most entertaining regular-season games of this entire season.

Second Half’s weekly “Breslin Bound” reports are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning 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. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

PHOTO: Alma improved to 7-3 last week with wins over Shepherd and Frankenmuth. (Click to see 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.)