Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 8

January 21, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

It’s all relative until they meet each other on the court, of course.

But there are some Michigan high school boys basketball teams absolutely dominating as we turn toward the final five weeks of the regular season.

A total of 22 teams remain undefeated. Bump that number to 55 counting teams that sit 10-2 or better. See below for crazy scoring stats for two of those high-achieving teams. And yet, every game is an opportunity – see Almont (8-3) handing Richmond (12-1) its first defeat Friday after Hemlock (6-5) did the same to Sanford Meridian (10-1) on Tuesday

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. River Rouge 66, Flint Beecher 61 – A matchup of two MHSAA championship favorites, Division 2 River Rouge improved to 10-1 while sending Division 3 Beecher to 11-1 at the Horatio Williams Freedom Classic.

2. Muskegon Reeths-Puffer 63, Muskegon 59 (OT) – This is less an upset than a rarity because Reeths-Puffer is 11-1, but Muskegon won last season’s two meetings by 32 and 10 points.

3. Oxford 49, Pontiac 46 – Unbeaten Oxford gained a slight edge in the Oakland Activities Association Blue standings by handing Pontiac its first defeat; the rematch is Feb. 19.

4. Detroit U-D Jesuit 74, Detroit Catholic Central 62 – The Cubs made it a league season sweep of the surging Shamrocks and can clinch a share of the Detroit Catholic League Central title with a win Tuesday.

5. Detroit Martin Luther King 50, Detroit Cass Tech 48 – Both went on to lose Saturday showcase games, but this one pulled King into a tie for first in the Detroit Public School League Midtown after the Crusaders had fallen to Cass Tech by 14 on Dec. 18.

Watch List

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


• Clarkston (10-2) – The two-time reigning Class A champion graduated Mr. Basketball last spring and saw the third-winningest coach in state boys basketball history retire. But after opening this season with two losses, the Wolves have won 10 straight including over King on Saturday. 

• Walled Lake Northern (11-0) – After finishing fourth last season, Northern appears to be closing in on the Lakes Valley Conference title with five straight double-digit league wins including one against second-place Waterford Mott. The Knights also will equal last season’s overall win total with their next victory.


• Benton Harbor (12-0) – The reigning Class B champion continues to roll, winning big most nights but also showing it can hold on for close victories. The Tigers edged Ferndale 90-81 at the Mayweather Basketball Classic on Saturday and also have wins over Henry Ford, Saginaw and Indiana contender South Bend Riley.

• Otsego (12-0) – The Bulldogs are outpacing the competition by an average of 25 points per game. They sit first in the Wolverine Conference North after the first run through the league schedule as they look to repeat in the league and improve on last year’s 19-2 overall finish.   


• Madison Heights Madison (11-1) – Madison bounced back from starting last week with its lone loss, to Warren Lincoln, by beating Clinton Township Clintondale 88-84 in overtime to clinch a share of the Macomb Area Conference Silver title. It’s the Eagles’ second straight, and they can make it outright with a win over Eastpointe on Tuesday. 

• Pewamo-Westphalia (12-0) – The Pirates were supposed to trail at least Dansville this season in the Central Michigan Athletic Conference after finishing second to Laingsburg a league ago. But P-W made it a season sweep of the Aggies with a 60-56 win last week and beat second-place Laingsburg by 33 in their first meeting.


• Flint International Academy (6-4) – The overall record isn’t stunning, but the reigning champion Phoenix lead the North Central Thumb League Stars thanks to a 12-point win over two-loss Kingston in December. The four losses came to nonleague opponents now a combined 41-7, including undefeated Brimley and Division 2 Bridgeport and Richmond.

• Marcellus Howardsville Christian (11-0) – A 41-point win over second-place New Buffalo last week gave Howardsville a two-game lead in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference White. And that win has been the norm: the Eagles are winning by an average of 42 points per victory. 

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Friday – Beaverton (9-2) at Sanford Meridian (10-1) – Despite being stunned last week by Hemlock, that was nonleague and Meridian still leads the Jack Pine Conference with Beaverton just a game back. 

Friday – Athens (11-0) at Bellevue (12-0) – The Broncos finished three games ahead of Athens a year ago to win the Southern Central Athletic Association West. The margin looks to be closer this time regardless of which team wins the title. Bellevue’s wins are all by double digits, and Athens has 10 victories by 10 or more. 

Friday – Redford Thurston (7-4) at Redford Union (8-4) – They’re tied atop the Western Wayne Athletic Conference standings after Thurston won by eight in their first meeting in early December but fell Friday to Dearborn Heights Crestwood. 

Saturday – Benton Harbor (11-0) vs. Detroit Edison (7-4) at North Farmington – The headliner of the Prep Ball Classic showcases a matchup of reigning champs, Benton Harbor in Class B (as noted above) and last season’s Class C winner Edison.

Saturday – Detroit U-D Jesuit (9-2) at Flint Beecher (11-1) – Beecher just suffered its only loss (see above), and Division 1 Jesuit’s defeats have been pretty strong as well to Division 2 contender New Haven and Chicago power Morgan Park. 

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: Gwinn's Tucker Taylor (32) – who needs four points to reach 1,000 for his career – considers his options last week while Ishpeming's Darius Yohe (22) defends. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)

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.)