Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 9

February 6, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A record-setting boys basketball season enjoyed another highlight last week when Beaverton’s Roy Johnston set the MHSAA record for career coaching victories with his 729th, a 61-24 win over Farwell.

With some pretty significant highlights now in the history books, the state’s hoops scene will turn it’s attention to the final three weeks of the regular season – and lining things up for what should be another exciting March. This week’s top matchups are a highlight of our latest Breslin Bound report – powered by MI Student Aid.

Week in Review

The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:

1. Detroit Martin Luther King 66, Detroit East English 60 – In avenging an earlier 14-point loss to East English, King solidified itself as the team to beat in the Detroit Public School League tournament.

2. Cornerstone Health & Technology 55, River Rouge 50 – The Class C Wolves are an intriguing contender in that class and handed the Class B Panthers their only loss.

3. Walled Lake Northern 42, Walled Lake Western 23 – After falling by seven to Western in overtime in their first meeting, Northern moved into a first-place tie with its rival in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association North after another neighbor, Walled Lake Central, followed by handing Western a second loss in a row.

4. Portage Central 70, Benton Harbor 64 (OT) – The Mustangs bounced back from a painful 24-point loss to Kalamazoo Central to hand Benton Harbor also its first loss of this season.

5. Grand Rapids Covenant Christian 80, Lansing Christian 67 – The Chargers got to 10 wins by handing only the third loss this season to the Pilgrims, who were ranked No. 1 in Class D earlier this winter.

Watch List

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


Rochester Hills Stoney Creek (11-3) – After a brief slowdown midseason, the Cougars are moving again with five straight wins to solidify their spot atop the Oakland Activities Association Blue at the midpoint in the league schedule. Another title would be Stoney Creek’s second straight.

Westland John Glenn (12-1) – Coach Rod Watts, who previously turned around Lansing Eastern’s program, has John Glenn back in the mix after a couple of middling seasons. The Rockets have equaled last winter’s 12 wins and avenged the lone loss, to Canton, with a 57-51 win last week to pull into a tie for first place in the KLAA South. 


Detroit Collegiate Prep (12-2) – The Colts will enter this week’s Detroit PSL tournament as the undefeated champion of the league’s West Division 2 after also winning the division and a District title a year ago. They won all 10 league games this winter by double digits.

Sanford Meridian Early College (12-1) – The Mustangs, who finished second to Beaverton in the Jack Pine Conference a year ago, put an end to the Beavers’ celebration last week with a triple-overtime win in the next game after Johnston set the coaching record. Both have one loss in the league after splitting this season.


New Buffalo (9-4) – After finishing two wins behind champion Cassopolis last season, New Buffalo is tied for first after handing the Rangers their only Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Blue loss on Jan. 27. They meet again Feb. 18 in a make-up of what was supposed to be the first matchup this season. 

Schoolcraft (12-1) – An 11-point loss to undefeated Kalamazoo Hackett on Jan. 10 is all that has kept Schoolcraft from being the team with the perfect record and first place in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley. They meet again Feb. 21; Schoolcraft has won all of its last five games by at least 40 points and should provide quite a challenge.


Gaylord St. Mary (10-4) – The Snowbirds will have a tough time catching Bellaire in the Ski Valley Conference – they have three league losses and Bellaire has none. But this season is a giant success so far after St. Mary went 8-13 a year ago, and it does get a shot at Bellaire again Feb. 15 after losing their first meeting by 11.

Holland Calvary (9-3) – The Crusaders have won three straight and six of their last seven, including 61-51 last week over Holland Black River to move into first place alone in the Alliance League. Calvary is going for its sixth straight league title – the last handful came with the conference split into divisions, but all eight schools are in one again this winter – and needs only two more wins to equal last season’s overall total.

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Friday – Frankenmuth (11-1) at Bridgeport (13-0) – The Eagles’ only loss was 69-59 to the Bearcats on Dec. 13, and this rematch should end up sealing if the teams share the Tri-Valley Conference East title or Bridgeport wins outright.

Friday – Detroit Catholic Central (9-4) at Detroit U-D Jesuit (10-3) – The Shamrocks stunned Jesuit 52-51 only two weeks ago and have an outside chance of sharing the Detroit Catholic League Central title with another win.

Friday – Norway (13-0) at Iron Mountain (12-2) – A loss to Ishpeming on Friday hurt Iron Mountain’s title chances, but the Mountaineers could still shake up the Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference a bit by handing leader Norway a first loss.

Friday – Westland John Glenn (12-1) at Wayne Memorial (11-2) – John Glenn won the first meeting Jan. 20, 69-65, and both are 7-1 in KLAA South play with two games left.

Saturday – Muskegon (13-0) at Ypsilanti Community (10-3) – These are stacking up as two of the contenders in Class A, and this could be one of the last telling nonleague games of this regular season.

PHOTO: Bridgeport takes on Frankenmuth on Friday in one of the most notable games in the Saginaw area and statewide in Class B. (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.)