Class C-D Preview: Wait Over for Contenders

March 25, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The majority of teams playing in this weekend’s Class C and D Semifinals have been waiting decades for this opportunity.

Six are seeking their first MHSAA titles. Three are playing for their first Finals berths, and two hope to appear in championship games for the first time since separate champions were awarded by peninsula in Class B, C and D during the 1930s and 40s.

All four Class C and D Semifinals will be played Thursday, with all four championship games Saturday. 

Semifinals - Thursday
Class C

Boyne City (21-5) vs Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (20-5), 1 p.m.
Hanover-Horton (24-1) vs Flint Beecher (24-1), 2:50 p.m.

Class D
Morenci (23-2) vs Waterford Our Lady (25-0), 6 p.m.
Fulton (21-4) vs Powers North Central (25-0), 7:50 p.m.

Finals - Saturday
Class A - Noon
Class B - 6:30 p.m.
Class C - 4:30 p.m. 
Class D - 10 a.m. 

Tickets cost $8 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session. All Semifinals will be streamed live on MHSAA.TV on a pay-per-view basis. All four Finals will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit, the Class D and A title games on FOX Sports Detroit's primary channel and the Class C and B games on FOX Sports Detroit-PLUS. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on

And now, a look at the semifinalists in Class C and D. Click on the name of the school to see that team’s full schedule and results from this season. (Statistics are through teams' Regional Finals.)

Class C

21-5, unranked.
League finish: First in Lake Michigan Conference.
Coach: Nick Redman, sixth season (82-57).
Championship history: Lower Peninsula Class C runner-up 1933.
Best wins: 54-51 over No. 5 Iron Mountain in the Regional Final, 55-48 over honorable mention McBain in the Quarterfinal, 48-45 (District Final) and 57-42 over East Jordan.
Players to watch: Corey Redman, 6-5 sr. F (16.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.5 apg); Zach Napont, sr. G (10.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.6 apg, 3.0 spg).
Outlook: The Ramblers started this season 0-2 and then lost their final two regular-season games, but bounced right back to made their first MHSAA Semifinal since 1977. Boyne City proved itself winning a tight league race with three teams within two wins of the title, then beat Iron Mountain in the closing seconds to advance to this week. Redman has committed to play at Central Michigan University next season and leads a lineup starting four seniors.  

24-1, No. 1.
League finish: First in Genesee Area Conference Red.
Coach: Mike Williams, 11th season (207-69).
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2013), four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 78-60 over honorable mention Southfield Christian in the Regional Final, 60-50 and 60-48 over Class B No. 4 Goodrich, 53-37 over Class B No. 7 Flint Northwestern.
Players to watch: Cedric Moten, 6-2 sr. F (15.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.2 spg); Samuel Toins, 5-9 sr. G (11.9 ppg, 51 3-pointers).
Outlook: The back-to-back champion in 2012 and 2013, Beecher just missed returning to Finals weekend in 2014, losing in its Quarterfinal. The Buccaneers stormed back this winter, in addition to the above-mentioned opponents defeating reigning Class C champion Detroit Consortium and solid Class A River Rouge. Moten and Toins are two of only three seniors; guard Malik Ellison is one of five sophomores and adds 12.8 points per game.

20-5, unranked.
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Conference Silver.
Coach: Jared Redell, third season (47-23).
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 48-36 over No. 3 Shelby in the Quarterfinal, 82-52 over Fennville in the District Final, 58-55 over Class B No. 3 Wyoming Godwin Heights, 93-53 over Class D honorable mention Baldwin.
Players to watch: Preston Huckaby, 5-11 sr. G (15 ppg, 3.3 apg); Kual Nhial, 6-6 sr. F (12.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg).
Outlook: NorthPointe is another team that enjoyed a fresh start in the tournament after losing three of its final four regular-season games – although the Mustangs did finish second to Class B semifinalist Godwin Heights in their league and are the only team to beat the Wolverines this season. This will be NorthPointe’s first Semifinal, and it’s a tough matchup for opponents in part because of its balance offensively; junior 6-5 guard Tyler Baker (11.3) and senior 6-5 guard Andrew Holesinger (10.1) also score in double figures, and Baker and Huckaby both have made more than 40 3-pointers this season.

24-1, No. 8.
League finish: First in Cascades Conference.
Coach: Chad Mortimer, 17th season (327-82).
Championship history: Lower Peninsula Class D runner-up 1941.
Best wins: 50-48 over No. 9 Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central in the Quarterfinal, 58-48 over No. 4 Hillsdale in the Regional Semifinal, 63-61 over No. 6 Jackson Lumen Christi in the District Semifinal,
Players to watch: Stefan Young, 5-9 sr. G (13.2 ppg, 4.3 apg); Brock Spink, 6-4 sr. F (11.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.5 apg).
Outlook: Hanover-Horton will play in its third Semifinal and first in since 2003 and after winning its 14th straight District title. The Comets have advanced with a pair of two-point wins over ranked opponents, avenging their lone loss by beating Lumen Christi. Senior 6-2 forward Preston Reiff (9.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg), junior 6-5 forward Preston Laketa (8.5/4.5) and senior 6-5 forward Lucas Crisanti (8.7/7.0) fill out a balanced lineup.

Class D

21-4, unranked.
League finish: Second in Central Michigan Athletic Conference.
Coach: Todd Walden, 18th season (231-172).
Championship history: Class D runner-up 2011.
Best wins: 72-67 OT over honorable mention Frankfort in the Quarterfinal, 64-60 over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart in the Regional Final, 55-53 over Pewamo-Westphalia, 75-71 over Class C honorable mention Ithaca.
Players to watch: Gregg Jones, 6-0 sr. G (16.9 ppg, 3.6 apg, 2.5 spg, 54 3-pointers); Colton Antes, 5-11 jr. G (13.9 ppg, 2.7 apg, 74 3-pointers).  
Outlook: The Pirates have won two straight close calls to return to the Semifinals, but no doubt benefited from playing against mostly Class C teams all season – all four losses were to Class C programs including two to No. 7 Laingsburg. Fulton is dangerous from the perimeter, making 209 3-pointers entering this week at nearly 38 percent success – sophomore guard Zach Walden had made 47 3-pointers heading into Tuesday. Fulton has won at least 20 games five the last six seasons.

23-2, unranked.
League finish: First in Tri-County Conference.
Coach: Jim Bauer, 10th season (141-84).
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 60-43 over Wyoming Tri-unity Christian in the Quarterfinal, 48-36 over Hillsdale Academy in the Regional Semifinal, 60-51 over Adrian Madison, 58-49 over Clinton.
Players to watch: Austin Sandusky, 5-5 sr. G (14.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.0 apg); Alex Thomas, 6-3, jr. G (10.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg).   
Outlook: Morenci is playing in its first Semifinal after winning in its first Quarterfinal appearance since 1954. The Bulldogs avenged both of their losses this season, and Tuesday extended a run to eight straight wins by at least 12 points by beating perennial power Tri-unity Christian. The team has 10 players, and all contribute with seven averaging at least five points per game. They also can shoot; seniors Tucker Stover and Hunter Borton both make better than 42 percent of their 3-point attempts, and Sandusky strikes at 39 percent success.

25-0, No. 1.
League finish: First in Skyline Central Conference West.
Coach: Adam Mercier, ninth season (130-78).
Championship history: Class D champion 1984.
Best wins: 63-51 over No. 6 Hillman in the Quarterfinal, 69-53 over No. 7 Lake Linden-Hubbell in the Regional Final, 48-44 (Regional Semifinal) and 45-43 over No. 5 Munising, 46-41 and 84-50 over No. 8 Crystal Falls Forest Park.
Players to watch: Jason Whitens, 6-4 soph. G (16.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 6.1 apg, 3.2 spg, 1.1 bpg); Rob Granquist, Jr., 6-1 sr. F (14.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.1 apg).  
Outlook: North Central has made three straight Quarterfinals and now two Semifinals in three seasons, with a combined record of 73-5 in that time. The Jets average nearly 72 points per game despite a schedule that has included six against top-10 teams. The team has only two seniors, and Granquist starts alongside a junior and three sophomores. Sophomore Dawson Bilski adds another 13.9 points per game.

25-0, No. 3.
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Intersectional 1.
Coach: Paul Robak, second season (42-6).
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 58-29 over No. 4 Allen Park Inter-City Baptist in the Quarterfinal, 52-35 over Southfield Bradford, 58-45 over Harbor Beach.
Players to watch: Nick Robak, 6-4 sr. G (23.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 63 3-pointers); Andrew Kline, 6-4 jr. G (13.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 6.6 apg, 3.2 spg, 42 3-pointers).  
Outlook: Our Lady has advanced to its third Semifinal and first since 1993 keyed by a sizable and sharp-shooting backcourt. Nick Robak scores the most but also makes 47 percent of his shots from the floor, 38 percent from 3-point range and 86 percent from the free-throw line. Although the list of opponents might not impress in terms of state rankings, Our Lady went undefeated in a league that also includes three Class B and a Class C team and then won the Catholic’s League’s Class C-D Tournament. Only three wins were closer than 10 points. 

PHOTO: Boyne City's Derek Willis launches the game-winning shot against Iron Mountain during last week's Regional. (Click for more from Jarvinen Photos.)

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.)