Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 8

January 29, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

We’ve crossed the midpoint of this boys basketball season, and the week to come might end up one of the most memorable of the winter.

But looking into the future is just one part of the “Breslin Bound” report, and this week’s in particular includes a number of teams that have bounced back or taken another step to impress over the last two months.

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 U-D Jesuit 64, Warren DeLaSalle 45 – The Cubs moved into first place alone in a Detroit Catholic League Central with four teams including the second-place Pilots at 8-4 or better.

2. Saginaw Heritage 58, Mount Pleasant 56 – The Hawks moved to 8-4, one win shy of last year’s total, and handed Mount Pleasant its first loss to knock the Oilers out of the Saginaw Valley League lead. 

3. Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 67, Macomb Dakota 57 – The Big Reds won this rivalry game for the first time since 2013-14, and in the process handed Dakota its first Macomb Area Conference Red loss.

4. Coloma 58, Kalamazoo Christian 52 – The Comets’ perfect start (now 11-0) got another highlight as they handed Kalamazoo Christian (10-1) that lone defeat. 

5. Brimley 62, Cedarville 56 – The 10-2 Bays avenged a seven-point loss to the Trojans on Dec. 7 to move into a first-place tie with them atop the Eastern Upper Peninsula Athletic Conference.

Watch List

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


Rochester (10-2) – The Falcons have risen from 0-20 three seasons ago to 9-12, then 11-11, and now first place in the Oakland Activities Association Blue. They’ve won seven straight and five of those by double digits, including a 16-pointer over Berkley (now 10-2) on Jan. 16 that was the Bears’ first defeat.

Sterling Heights Stevenson (8-3) – Stevenson switched from the MAC White to the MAC Red last season and dropped from 20-4 overall to 8-13. But the Titans have bounced back nicely and lead Dakota by a half-game in the standings after losing to the Cougars on Jan. 16. The rematch is Friday.


Big Rapids (9-1) – A first-round District exit to end last season combined with an early-January loss to Fremont might have quieted any Big Rapids talk, but the Cardinals sit tied with Fremont atop the Central State Activities Association Gold standings with six of their wins coming by double digits.

River Rouge (12-0) – The Panthers have seen only two games get to single digits – overtime wins over Detroit Osborn and West Bloomfield – and they lead the Michigan Metro Athletic Conference Blue after handing Harper Woods its lone defeat. The early run puts River Rouge at a combined 36-2 since the start of 2016-17, which finished two points from making the Class B Final.  


Johannesburg-Lewiston (9-1) – Last season’s 6-15 finish is becoming a memory as the Cardinals have run off nine straight wins to take a two-game lead in the Ski Valley Conference. Eight of those nine wins have come by double digits. The lone loss came to Boyne City (now 8-3).

Kent City (11-0) – The Eagles have finished first or second all three of their seasons in the CSAA Silver, coming in runner-up a year ago. But none of those finishes started like this; Kent City leads the league thanks to a 30-point win over second-place Morley Stanwood on Jan. 12, and can equal last season’s win total with three more.


Fowler (9-1) – Class C powers Dansville and Pewamo-Westphalia were expected to battle it out for the Central Michigan Athletic Conference title, with another Class C foe Laingsburg pushing them. Instead, Fowler sits atop the league and among the most impressive teams in Class D, coming off a 41-40 win over the Wolfpack on Friday. 

Munising (9-1) – Powers North Central’s winning streak may be over, but the U.P. still has its share of Class D power especially with Munising sliding to this class from Class C last year. The Mustangs lead the Skyline Central Conference large schools division, their only loss to Rapid River (now 8-1).

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Clarkston (11-1) at Hazel Park (11-0) – What might be one of the top regular-season games this season pits the co-leaders of the OAA Red and also two of the chief contenders in Class A. 

Tuesday – Richmond (8-3) at Capac (10-1) – A dream turnaround season for Capac (8-15 a year ago) could hit a new level with a win in this matchup of Blue Water Area Conference co-leaders.

Tuesday – Detroit U-D Jesuit (9-3) at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (8-4) – Jesuit is the only undefeated team in the Catholic League Central, but needs to be cautious after defeating the Eaglets by just a point Jan. 12.

Friday – Flint Beecher (6-5) at Flint Hamady (9-2) – Beecher loads up the schedule with top teams from all over the east side of the Lower Peninsula, but got a major challenge in a one-point win over local and league rival Hamady on Dec. 19. 

Friday – Spring Lake (11-2) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (9-1) – League leader GRCC won big in the first meeting, by 41, but that remains the only O-K Blue loss for the second-place Lakers.

PHOTO: Saginaw Heritage, here against Flint Powers Catholic, dealt Mount Pleasant its first loss of the season last week. (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.)