Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 9

February 11, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

If you’re a regular reader to our “Breslin Bound: Girls Report” as well, what follows will sound pretty familiar – but remains extremely important.

We’re winding down the boys basketball regular season, and we’re less than two weeks from seeding the top two teams in each District for the first time. But we need your help.

Teams earning the top spots will do so based on success and strength of schedule, and it’s imperative for to list all games played and correct scores for each. Know a score we don’t or realize a game is missing that should be added? Send corrections or missing scores to [email protected]. Every result affects multiples of others, and we thank you for your help in advance. 

“Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at

Week in Review

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

1. Benton Harbor 64, Grand Rapids Catholic Central 51 – Another Saturday showcase, another huge win for the Tigers, who followed up their previous Saturday victory over Ypsilanti Lincoln with this one against a possible postseason foe.

2. Frankenmuth 43, Bridgeport 38 – The Eagles avenged a 26-point defeat from Dec. 20 to hand the Bearcats their first of the season.

3. Grand Blanc 54, Muskegon 51 – The Bobcats dealt the Big Reds only their second loss this season and first to an in-state opponent.  

4. Kalamazoo Central 66, Portage Central 44 – The Maroon Giants handed Central its first and only defeat this winter.

5. Beaverton 49, Sanford Meridian 45 – The Beavers moved into first place alone in the Jack Pine Conference by finishing a sweep of second-place Meridian.

Watch List

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


Grand Blanc (12-3) The Bobcats have clinched a share of the Saginaw Valley League Blue title and posted one of the most impressive runs in the state against a slate of opponents that has won just a tick under 70 percent of its games this winter – giving Grand Blanc the second-highest strength of schedule in Division 1. They started this week by finishing a sweep of Flint Carman-Ainsworth (10-5) to clinch that league title and also have wins over Muskegon (11-2), Kalamazoo Central (10-3), U-D Jesuit (9-6) and Detroit Douglass (14-3).

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (13-1) The Eaglets have clinched the Detroit Catholic League Central title, and that’s just the start of the story. They also have handed the only losses to Clarkston and Hudsonville, and one of few to Grand Blanc with the only defeat against Division 3 contender Flint Beecher. The league title is St. Mary’s first in more than a decade and comes against a group that includes 2019 Division 1 runner-up Detroit U-D Jesuit among three nine-win teams that also were in the chase.  


Benton Harbor (14-1) As noted above, Benton Harbor put up another big win at the Floyd Mayweather Classic on Saturday to go others over Ypsilanti Lincoln, Kalamazoo Central and Battle Creek Pennfield. Add in a loss to Beecher, and the Tigers’ strength of schedule ranks 10th in Division 2 – and they are one of only four teams in that top 10 with a winning record. And Benton Harbor isn’t done prepping for what should be another long tourney run, with River Rouge (15-1), Niles Brandywine (11-1) and Wyoming (12-1) rounding out the regular-season schedule.

Grand Rapids Christian (13-0) The Eagles are one of three undefeated teams left in Division 2. They handed Grand Rapids Catholic Central its first loss on Dec. 17 and also gave the only defeat to Wyoming. Grand Rapids Christian has survived its share of close games – two by two points apiece and two more by seven or fewer – but that’s pretty impressive too. They lead an Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold that also includes Wyoming (12-1) and East Grand Rapids (10-4).


Flint Beecher (13-1) The Bucs are unbeaten since falling to Division 2 Ferndale in their season opener, and they’ve loaded up the nonleague portion of their resume with wins over Benton Harbor, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (both mentioned above) and Flint Carman-Ainsworth, with a matchup with Grand Blanc coming up. For any other team, it would be impressive alone that Beecher leads a Genesee Area Conference with two other teams at 11-3. But the Bucs have won five MHSAA Finals titles over the last eight seasons and will be in the statewide mix again.  

Niles Brandywine (11-1) The Bobcats took over the top spot this week in Division 3 MPR thanks in part to a schedule against opponents that have won nearly 63 percent of their games. Of course it helps a ton that Brandywine is 11-1 against those teams. The Bobcats lead the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference Red by a game despite losing their first meeting with second-place Parchment in overtime Jan. 24. They meet again Feb. 28, and a March 3 matchup with Benton Harbor will be a great test heading into the postseason.


Kingston (14-0) The Cardinals appear to be closing in on the North Central Thumb League Stars championship and haven’t had a game closer than 11 points since Jan. 10 against Dryden – which happens to be tonight’s opponent and lost by just a point in their first meeting. Kingston shared the league title and won its District last season and could be poised to achieve that and more carrying the top Division 4 MPR into this week.

Southfield Christian (11-3) The reigning Division 4 champion has wrapped up at least a share of a ninth-straight league title despite having three games left to play in the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue. They’ll be seeking a third-straight Finals championship carrying into the postseason a win over Division 3 contender Detroit Edison and good playoff-preparation losses to Division 1 West Bloomfield, Southfield Arts & Technology and Detroit Catholic Central.  

Can't-Miss Contests

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

Tuesday – Detroit Martin Luther King (13-3) vs. Detroit Douglass (14-3) at Cass Tech – This Detroit Public School League Tournament semifinal matches up the champion and runner-up, respectively, from the PSL East.

Tuesday – Detroit Communication Media Arts (12-3) at Detroit Cass Tech (15-1) – Similarly, the other PSL Tournament semifinal features the runner-up vs. the champ, respectively, in the West.

Tuesday – Detroit Edison (9-3) at Clarkston (12-1) – Both have championship aspirations, Edison as mentioned above in Division 3 and the Wolves in Division 1.

Thursday – Belleville (11-2) at Westland John Glenn (10-4) – Belleville holds a one-game lead in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East thanks to a 58-50 win over John Glenn on Jan. 21.

Thursday – Escanaba (10-5) at Marquette (12-3) – This could decide the Greater Northern Conference championship outright, as the teams are tied for first with two league games to play and Marquette won the first meeting 63-56 on Jan. 7.

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: Marquette's Thomas Albarello drives to the basket while being defended by Ishpeming's Jacob Kugler during their game last month. (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.)