Consortium Proves To Be Best in Class C

March 22, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Detroit Consortium’s boys basketball team fell in a 2011 Semifinal to eventual Class C champion Schoolcraft. A year later, the Cougars’ season ended with a two-point Regional Final loss to eventual title winner Flint Beecher. 

Joshua Jackson was watching – but couldn’t help. He was still in junior high.

But the now-sophomore decided then that when he was old enough, he’d play a part in the Cougars' first MHSAA title. 

Consortium entered this postseason ranked No. 2 in the final Class C poll. With the 6-foot-8 Jackson leading and surrounded by a talented a cast, the Cougars eliminated No. 1 Mount Clements and No. 3 Negaunee this week and finished with a 61-44 championship game win over No. 10 Pewamo-Westphalia on Saturday at the Breslin Center.

“Playing with most of the guys last year, I always had trust in them,” Jackson said. “I just had something to prove, and they wanted to win just like I did. 

“To prove so many people wrong, I know maybe one person picked us to win (over Mount Clemens). I guess they thought overall their team was better than ours. (But) I think we’ve proved people wrong all year winning big games.”

Consortium beat some of the best in finishing 25-2 this winter. 

The Cougars also defeated No. 5 Detriot Allen in their Regional Final, plus ranked Class A Saginaw Arthur Hill, Romulus and Detroit Southeastern, ranked Class B Detroit Country Day and Detroit Douglass, an MHSAA semifinalist in that class.

And that’s some of what coach Tobias Tuomi reminded his players when Consortium led Pewamo-Westphalia only 27-25 in the championship game. 

“We just said to cherish the moment. I told them to appreciate all the work, and it is a heck of an opportunity just to be here,” Tuomi said. “But we didn’t come here to be here. We came to win a state championship. To do that, we’d have to do all the little things we do in practice, things that won us games all season.”

P-W (23-3) was doing them to keep pace during the first half and up until taking a 34-32 lead three minutes into the third quarter. Despite trailing by 11 at the end of the first period, the Pirates drew even heading into the final minute of the first half before senior guard Rudy Smith hit a go-ahead basket to give Consortium the two-point lead at the break. 

But after senior Evan Fedewa’s 3-pointer gave the Pirates that third-quarter advantage, Consortium outscored them 19-3 to take a 51-37 lead with 6:50 to play.

Consortium’s defense tightened and P-W’s shooting percentage fell – from 43 percent from the floor during the first half to 32 percent in the second. Meanwhile, the Cougars upped their offensive output, improving from 42 percent from the floor to 63 over the final two quarters. Senior guard Ronald Booth, in particular, scored 12 of his 14 points during the second half to finish as one of three Consortium players in double figures. 

“We just dug down, got a little more focused,” Tuomi said. “Definitely, (P-W was) taking a lot tougher shots.”

Smith also finished with 14 points for Consortium. Jackson led with 22 points on 9 of 13 shooting – including hitting all three of his 3-point attempts, and also grabbed 13 rebounds.

“For the old guys like me, I saw Earvin Johnson play here at (Lansing) Everett, and I had season tickets when he was (at Michigan State). He’s a similar type of player to him,” P-W coach Luke Pohl said of Jackson. “Whether he’s going to become that kind of player is another story, but he’s really talented. He might be the most talented person our teams have played against. He can see the court real well, passes well … and he’s a really humble kid.”

Senior center Lane Simon scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds for P-W, and senior guard Nick Spitzley finished a four-year varsity career with 10 points and three assists. 

They and nine seniors total brought the Pirates to their first championship game since 1993. Pohl – who graduated from P-W in 1976 and has coached over two tenures since 1995 – called this the best team in school history. It definitely highlighted the Pirates a little more prominently on the statewide basketball map.

“Obviously I wanted to achieve the state championship,” Simon said. “But it feels like we got a lot of respect back."

Consortium did make the Quarterfinals with Jackson last season, again falling by two to Beecher as the Buccaneers went on to repeat as champions. But that was impressive in itself – the Cougars continued on although coach Al Anderson died unexpectedly that February. 

The run also set the stage for things to come.

“We wanted to sit and sob and cry about it, but at the end of the day we knew that what he wanted was for us to win a state championship more than anything,” Jackson said. “So we knew that was something that we had to do.” 

Click for a full box score and video from the press conference.

PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Consortium’s Rudy Smith pushes down the floor as Pewamo-Westphalia’s Nick Spitzley gives chase during the Class C Final. (Middle) The Pirates’ Lane Simon goes strong to the basket for two of his game-high 23 points. 

HIGHLIGHTS: (1) Joshua Jackson follows a miss with a big dunk for Detroit Consortium in the fourth quarter of its Class C championship game against Pewamo-Westphalia. Jackson finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds in leading his team to the win. (2) Some nice passing by Pewamo-Westphalia sets up Evan Fedewa for a 3-pointer to give the Pirates a 34-32 lead in the third quarter against Detroit Consortium in the Class C title game.

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.)