Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 8

February 3, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A number of MHSAA boys basketball teams finished the first half of their league schedules last week.

A number of games set up which teams will chase over this final month of the regular season, as well as which will be chased with little to no room for error.

See some of those teams below that stuck out for how they stayed in or joined league races over the final week in January.


Battle Creek Central (7-6) – Opponents can’t sleep on the Bearcats despite their middling record; Battle Creek Central started 0-5 but has won five straight including two by five or fewer points last week. Central trails Kalamazoo Central by a win in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East and faces the Maroon Giants on Friday.

Dearborn Fordson (9-3) – A brief downturn of three losses in four games in mid-January is over thanks to wins over rivals Robichaud and Dearborn last weekend. The Tractors’ next games are against the teams ahead of them in the Western Wayne Athletic Conference Blue standings – co-leaders Belleville and Romulus.

Novi (10-2) – Barring something unexpected, only Salem can still challenge Novi in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association Central. The Wildcats finished fifth in the league last season; a 77-65 win over Salem on Jan. 20 separates the two at this point.

Saginaw Arthur Hill (11-2) – Playing potentially its last season (the school reportedly may merge with Saginaw High), the Lumberjacks are taking advantage and haven’t lost in 2015. They own a one-game lead in the Saginaw Valley Association North thanks to an 88-66 win last week over second-place Saginaw.


Alma (9-2) – The Panthers took a tough Tri-Valley Conference crossover loss to West leader Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary on Friday, but opened last week by beating East co-leader Millington by 15 and then extended their Central advantage to two games with a win Saturday over Hemlock.

Dowagiac (10-1) – The Chieftains retained their grip on a share of first place in the Wolverine Conference West with a 68-66 win over third-place Edwardsburg last week. Dowagiac has won seven straight and gets its rematch Friday with Paw Paw, the other first-place team and the only one to beat Dowagiac this winter.

Haslett (10-1) – The Vikings have quietly set the pace in the Capital Area Activities Conference Red behind standout junior point guard Brandon Allen, and he’s gotten plenty of help during a six-game winning streak that last week included an overtime win over Class A Holt. The only loss was to second-place DeWitt, up again Feb. 13.

Marysville (9-2) – Marysville missed a league title by a win last season but has two more than the field in the Macomb Area Conference Silver after rolling through the first half of the league schedule undefeated. The Vikings needed three overtimes to beat Clawson 51-46 last week.


Carson City-Crystal (8-2) – The Eagles extended their recent winning streak to five with a 62-55 win over Vestaburg on Friday that pushed both teams and Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart into a tie for first place in the Mid-State Activities Conference. The second half of the league schedule starts this weekend.

Fennville (11-1) – A halfcourt shot make was the most memorable play of Friday’s 67-61 overtime win over Saugatuck that kept Fennville in first place in the Southwestern Athletic Conference North. The big shot sent it to the extra period as Fennville went on to win the “Never Forgotten” game played in honor of former standout Wes Leonard, who died on the court in 2011.

Manton (8-3) – The Rangers won 10 games last season and can equal that total in 2014-15 with two victories this week. Manton lost big to Highland Conference leader McBain three weeks ago, but maintains second place and gets McBain again Feb. 20.

Maple City Glen Lake (7-4) – The Lakers opened 3-4 but haven’t lost since to hold on to a share of first place in the Northwest Conference. Glen Lake owns that piece of the top spot after beating Frankfort – also tied for first – 45-44 on Jan. 13.


Alanson (8-2) – The Vikings have won six straight and sit alone in second in the Northern Lakes League after defeating third-place Mackinaw City 45-42 on Friday. Alanson fell to the Comets by 21 points on Jan. 6 and won nine games a year ago.

Felch North Dickinson (7-5) – The Nordics started 1-5 but are making their way back up the Skyline Central Conference East standings. North Dickinson sits in third but beat second-place Crystal Falls Forest Park 57-53 last week.

Lawrence (10-1) – The Tigers’ 8-player football MHSAA title kicked off a strong year for the school’s boys teams; the basketball team leads the Southwestern Athletic Conference South and has won seven straight.

Rudyard (10-3) – The Bulldogs are second to Class A Sault Ste. Marie in the Straits Area Conference and have won four straight including 75-65 over third-place St. Ignace on Friday. Rudyard gets its second shot at Sault Ste. Marie on Feb. 24 after losing by 10 in their first meeting Jan. 16.  

PHOTO: Alma defeated Millington in a crossover matchup of Tri-Valley Conference leaders last week. (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.)