Class C Preview: History Will Be Made

March 21, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Regardless of which team emerges as Class C champion Saturday, that crowning moment will conclude quite a story.

At the very least, the winner could be celebrating a first MHSAA boys basketball title in more than two decades.

Detroit Edison and Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central both are seeking not just their first MHSAA titles in boys basketball this weekend, but to play in the championship game for the first time.

Grand Rapids Covenant Christian, meanwhile, was runner-up last season at the Breslin Center but hasn’t won a title since 1994. Maple City Glen Lake, if it wins out, would claim its first since 1977.

Class C Semifinals – Thursday
Detroit Edison (15-10) vs. Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (22-4), noon
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (25-0) vs. Maple City Glen Lake (23-2), 2 p.m.

Class C Final – Saturday, 4:30 p.m.

Tickets cost $10 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session (Class C and Class B). All Semifinals will be streamed live on and viewable on a pay-per-view basis. The Class D, A and C championship games will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit, while the Class B Final will be shown on Fox Sports Detroit on a delayed basis at 10:30 p.m. Saturday. All four championship games will be streamed live on and the FOX Sports Go! app. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on

Below is a glance at all four semifinalists. 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.)

15-10, honorable mention
League finish: Fourth in Detroit Public School League East Division 1
Coach: Brandon Neely, fifth season (69-44) 
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 73-46 over No. 3 Unionville-Sebewaing in Quarterfinal, 63-57 (Regional Semifinal) and 82-45 over Detroit Pershing, 59-51 over Class A honorable mention Detroit Cass Tech, 50-48 over Class A honorable mention Detroit Renaissance, 65-48 over Class A honorable mention Belleville, 83-67 over Class D No. 1 Southfield Christian.
Players to watch: Pierre Mitchell, Jr., 6-0 sr. G (15.3 ppg, 3.2 apg); Gary Solomon, 6-5 sr. G (16.2 ppg, 3.3 apg).
Outlook: Edison is making a second straight trip to the Semifinals after winning its second Regional title last week and this season also winning the Detroit Public School League tournament. The team’s record might look just slightly above average, but eight of those losses were to Class A teams including three team ranked among the top five at the end of the regular season and a fourth that will play in the Semifinals on Friday. Mitchell, Solomon and 6-9 senior Deante Johnson (13.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.2 bpg) also were starters and standouts a year ago.

22-4, honorable mention
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Tyler Schimmel, fourth season (71-25)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 1994), Class C runner-up 2017.  
Best wins: 53-30 over honorable mention Sanford Meridian in Quarterfinal, 58-48 over honorable mention Dansville in Regional Final, 53-47 over Grand Rapids Christian.
Players to watch: Carson Meulenberg, 6-6 sr. F (15.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 3.2 apg); Tyler Cammenga, 5-8 sr. G (9.2 ppg, 64 3-pointers).
Outlook: Four starters from last season’s Class C championship game loss to Flint Beecher have brought Covenant Christian back this weekend. Meulenberg earned some attention with 20 points in last year’s Final, and Cammenga entered the last week of the season with 64 3-pointers for the second straight year. Senior 6-3 guard Nathan Minderhoud (10.7 ppg) is the team’s second leading scorer, and senior 6-4 forward Trenton Koole adds 7.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg and 3.2 apg. All four losses this winter came to Class B teams that finished with at least 17 wins, including semifinalist Grand Rapids Catholic Central.

23-2, No. 5
League finish: Tied for first in Northwest Conference
Coach: Rich Ruelas, third season (56-14)
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 1977), one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 66-49 over No. 4 Iron Mountain in Quarterfinal, 66-32 (Regional Semifinal) and 50-37 over No. 9 McBain, 49-29 over honorable mention Manton in District Semifinal, 54-45 and 52-31 over Class D No. 6 Frankfort.
Players to watch: Xander Okerlund, 6-4 jr. G/F (16.1 ppg, 3.1 apg); Cade Peterson, 6-5 sr. F (14.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.6 bpg).
Outlook: A talented group has Glen Lake at the Semifinals for the first time since finishing Class D runner-up in 1996. The only losses were to league rival Buckley, a semifinalist in Class D. Iron Mountain, falling by 17, came the closest to Glen Lake of any opponent so far this postseason. Some of the same players, including quarterback Peterson and senior starting forward Nick Apsey (a running back/linebacker in the fall), took Glen Lake to the Division 6 Football Final in 2016. Sophomore forward Reece Hazelton adds 13.3 ppg.

25-0, No. 1
League finish: First in Huron League
Coach: Randy Windham, ninth season (181-37)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 31-28 over No. 6 Kalamazoo Christian in Quarterfinal, 61-56 over honorable mention Hanover-Horton in Regional Final, 56-44 over No. 7 Ottawa Lake Whiteford in District Final.
Players to watch: C.J. Haut, 6-8 sr. F (18.4 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 2.9 bpg); Hunter Kegley, 5-9 jr. G (15.2 ppg, 68 3-pointers)
Outlook: Monroe St. Mary has been on the verge of a championship run with four Quarterfinal appearances this decade and a Semifinal berth in 2013. The Falcons fell to Edison in last season’s Quarterfinal, but haven’t lost a game since. In fact, the last two games were two of only four decided by single digits this season. Junior 6-4 forward Tyler Welch adds another 10.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.

PHOTO: Grand Rapids Covenant Christian’s Carson Meulenberg puts up a shot against Flint Beecher during last season’s Class C Final.

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.)