Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 8

February 4, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Whether it was last week’s Upper Peninsula matchup of statewide Division 3 contenders or the Saturday night showcase of recent MHSAA Finals champions, this boys basketball season at the start of February already has taken on a tournament-time atmosphere.

That should only continue to build this week as league races get more intense and state powers meet again for another big event in the Grand Rapids area.

“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. Benton Harbor 73, Ypsilanti Lincoln 51 – The marquee matchup of the Grand Rapids Redhawk Classic saw the Tigers move up to No. 5 in Division 2 MPR with this win over the reigning Division 1 champion Lincoln, which was No. 1 in Division 1 last week but fell to No. 6.  

2. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 65, Hudsonville 47 – The Eaglets took back the top spot in Division 1 MPR by handing Hudsonville its first loss, also at the Redhawk Classic.

3. Iron Mountain 69, Negaunee 51 – A full house watched the unbeaten Mountaineers hand the Miners their first loss; they meet again in the regular-season finale March 5.

4. Erie Mason 70, Onsted 67 (2 OT) – The Eagles, with their lone Lenawee County Athletic Association loss by a basket to Blissfield nine days prior, moved back into a tie for first with this win over another co-leader.

5. Muskegon 77, Saginaw 74 – The Big Reds remain unbeaten against in-state competition with this Redhawk Classic nail-biter their third victory by three points or fewer this winter.

Watch List

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


Clarkston (10-1) The cast mostly has changed since the Wolves’ back-to-back Class A titles in 2017 and 2018, but second-year coach Tim Wasilk has Clarkston on a nine-game winning streak and atop the Oakland Activities Association Red standings with recent wins over second-place Ferndale and third-place (tied) North Farmington and West Bloomfield. The team’s only loss was to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s on Dec. 20; Clarkston also owns wins over Detroit Martin Luther King and Flint Carman-Ainsworth.

Flint Southwestern (10-1) The Jaguars are riding a 10-game winning streak after winning a combined seven games over the last two seasons. Their lone loss this winter was to Burton Bendle (10-2) in the season opener, and they handed Croswell-Lexington its only defeat, 53-50, on Dec. 27. Another major test comes tonight against undefeated Bridgeport, and Flint Beecher (11-1) also will provide a valuable measuring stick Feb. 18.  


Grand Rapids Catholic Central (11-1) A six-point loss Dec. 17 to still-undefeated Grand Rapids Christian is all that’s kept GRCC from perfect as well this winter – and the Cougars actually entered this week with the top MPR in Division 2, two spots ahead of the Eagles. That’s a credit to GRCC’s body of work, which includes handing the only defeats to Otsego (12-1) and River Rouge (12-1) and nine wins total over teams with records above .500. Saturday’s Floyd Mayweather Classic matchup with Benton Harbor will be the game of the week in this state.

Goodrich (11-1) The Martians’ 46-44 win over Flint Metro League Stripes leader Linden last week arguably was their most impressive of the season, although it also followed up a 45-point win over Clio (11-2). Goodrich leads the Metro League Stars division by two games over the Mustangs and see them again Feb. 28. The Martians’ only loss was a close one, 61-58 in overtime to Carman-Ainsworth (8-4) on Jan. 21.


Detroit Edison (7-3) The Pioneers’ position atop Division 3 MPR is a nod to its impressive schedule and wins over Waterford Mott (10-2) and Detroit Douglass (12-3). Division 1 Clarkston and Detroit Martin Luther King are among opponents coming up, but Edison is plenty familiar with the big powers after losing just 53-50 to still-unbeaten Ann Arbor Huron and 75-58 to Ypsilanti Lincoln. That third defeat came Dec. 16 against reigning Division 4 champion Southfield Christian, 61-52.

Schoolcraft (12-0) The Eagles are making a run at a second-straight season with at least 20 wins, with only a 58-56 overtime victory over Hopkins in the season opener finishing closer than 14 points. Schoolcraft sits atop the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley standings, two games ahead of second-place Kalamazoo Christian thanks in part to a 51-37 victory Jan. 10. The Eagles also own a win over reigning league champion Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep, 53-26 on Jan. 7


Munising (12-1) The Mustangs are contending with Bark River-Harris atop the Skyline Central Conference Large schools division and defeated Small schools leader Powers North Central 67-31 to close last week. Munising is seeking a fourth-straight league title and hosts Bark River-Harris tonight. The Mustangs also handed Pickford its only loss, 57-47 on Dec. 28, and its only defeat came in a low-scoring 35-20 matchup with Crystal Falls Forest Park on Jan. 16.

Pickford (9-1) Pickford has matched last season’s success after finishing 2018-19 at 9-11. The Panthers have only the loss to Munising during an otherwise unbeaten run. They’ve handed defeats to three nine-win teams – Dearborn Advanced Tech, Rudyard and Pellston – and the 55-54 victory over Advanced Tech was one of two one-pointers Pickford has held on to claim this winter.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Portage Central (10-0) at Kalamazoo Central (7-3) – The leaders of the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West and East, respectively, face off.

Tuesday – Flint Southwestern (10-1) at Bridgeport (12-0) – This kicks off a week for the Bearcats that also will include games against Unionville-Sebewaing (9-1) and Frankenmuth (9-1).

Wednesday – Beaverton (8-2) at Sanford Meridian (10-2) – The co-leaders in the Jack Pine Conference will meet a second time after Beaverton won the first 40-38 on Dec. 17.

Saturday – Benton Harbor (11-1) vs. Grand Rapids Catholic Central (11-1) at Ottawa Hills – As noted above, this is the game of the week statewide and a potential preview of a playoff showdown.

Saturday – Grand Blanc (10-3) at Muskegon (10-1) – This also could foreshadow a postseason matchup as these are two of the best in Division 1.   

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: Iron Mountain's Foster Wonders drives to the basket while being defended by Negaunee's Drew Lindberg (23), Will Luke (14), and Chas Kumpula (5) near the end of the second quarter of last week’s matchup. (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.)