Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 9

February 10, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The first week of February saw the final boys basketball showcase events of 2014-15 and the first league tournament of this winter, with the Detroit Public School League beginning its countdown to Calihan Hall.

The following teams were among those that impressed as the final month of the MHSAA regular season got underway.


Macomb Dakota (11-2) – The Cougars sit atop the Macomb Area Conference Red standings and are coming off their best week. Dakota beat second-place Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 75-67 on Thursday and then edged Ypsilanti Community 69-65 on Saturday at the Lumberjack Classic at Delta College.

Salem (11-3) – The Rocks have finished third three straight seasons since their last league title in 2011-12, but they’re tied with Novi for first this winter in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association Central. Next up? Novi tonight, with sixth place South Lyon to finish out the league schedule Friday.

Sterling Heights Stevenson (10-3) – The Titans are 7-0 in the MAC White, two games ahead of the field with a loss to Dakota its only defeat of 2015. Stevenson finished third in its division last season and second in 2012-13.

West Bloomfield (12-1) – The switch from Blue to the White division of the Oakland Activities Association has been a nice change; West Bloomfield was seventh in the Blue last season but sits atop the White standings with three of four league wins by 14 or more points.


Detroit Communication Media Arts (13-3) – Despite its first loss since Dec. 18, to Detroit Osborn, CMA finished its run to a Detroit PSL division crown and then doubled up Class A Detroit Southeastern 40-20 in the first round of the league tournament.

Detroit Osborn (11-5) – The Knights claimed their second straight Detroit PSL division title and continued a nine-game winning streak by beating CMA in overtime and then Detroit Cody in the first round of the league tournament.

Edwardsburg (10-3) – The Eddies’ aspirations of repeating as Wolverine Conference West champs took a blow with a two-point loss to first-place Dowagiac on Jan. 26. But they’ll travel to Dowagiac on Friday with a chance to create a three-way tie at the top.

Imlay City (12-2) – The Spartans pulled within half a win of the Blue Water Area Conference lead by handing Yale its first defeat this season, 49-42, on Feb. 3. Imlay City's lone league loss came by a point Jan. 20 to Richmond, the league leader and opponent Wednesday.


Burton Atherton (10-5) – The Wolverines posted a 3-0 week, avenging a previous loss to Flint Hamady with a 65-60 win Friday and then beating Bridgeport in the Lumberjack Classic. Atherton is third in the Genesee Area Conference Blue.

Cassopolis (9-6) – The overall record isn’t stunning thanks in part to a tough schedule featuring a number of larger schools, but that experience gained is paying off in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph East. The Rangers sit in first place and beat a solid BCS West team in Buchanan 61-52 on Thursday.

Muskegon Heights (8-4) – The Tigers again are playing a variety of schools of all sizes and are 5-1 after a 3-3 start. Wins against Baldwin and Muskegon Catholic Central are impressive, but so are losses to Rockford, Lansing Sexton, Bridgman and Benton Harbor.

Shelby (14-0) – These Tigers can clinch their second straight West Michigan Conference championship tonight against second-place North Muskegon, which they beat 48-45 on Jan. 27. North Muskegon and Whitehall are the only opponents to come within single digits of Shelby this season.


Cedarville (9-0) – With much the same cast as last season’s MHSAA semifinalist – and the key players from the fall’s 8-player football runner-up – Cedarville sits atop the Eastern Upper Peninsula Athletic Conference  and has won at least 41 straight league games dating to the 2009-10 season (which is as far back as MHSAA regular-season archives go).

Frankfort (12-1) – The Panthers boys are matching the powerhouse girls team this winter, sitting tied for first in the Northwest Conference with Maple City Glen Lake. Frankfort plays Glen Lake again Friday after falling to Lakers 45-44 on Jan. 13.

Holland Calvary (13-1) – The Crusaders have clinched a share of their fourth straight league title and can make it an outright Alliance League North championship by beating second-place Kent City Algoma Christian on Friday for the second time in two weeks.

Powers North Central (12-0) – The Jets are preparing to land their third straight league title with a three-win lead atop the Skyline Central Conference West. An MHSAA quarterfinalist last season, North Central hasn’t lost a regular-season game since 2012-13 and got a big win, 46-41, over second-place Crystal Falls Forest Park on Friday.   

PHOTO: Macomb Dakota edged Ypsilanti Community 69-65 on Saturday at Delta College. (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.)