Final 'Retro' Mr Basketball Class Named

April 12, 2019

Special from Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan

With the completion of the 2018-19 prep basketball season, the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan proudly wraps up its decade-long “Retro” Mr. Basketball project with the announcement of the final six honorees.

Over the course of 10 seasons, the project has examined the high school court careers of hundreds of the state’s finest. The list of 61 honorees, when combined with the winners of the current ‘Mr. Basketball’ Award, first presented following the 1980-81 prep season, totals 100. A contiguous list of Michigan’s ‘Best of the Best’ now dates back to 1920.

Noting the amazing pool of talented basketball players produced by the state over the years, past Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan Executive Director Tom Hursey and Michigan High School Athletic Association historian Ron Pesch hatched a plan to replicate the ‘Mr. Basketball’ concept, and apply it to the past.  The goal was to name the top high school senior ballplayer for each of the 61 years between 1920 and 1980.

To do so, Pesch hit the archives, examined the data, gathered names and assembled biographies, then provided a ballot. BCAM assembled a committee representing all parts of Michigan to examine the information, narrow the field to the best-of-the-best, and then vote for a winner.

“All along, the idea was to focus solely on the high school playing careers of these individuals, just like the current award,” said Hursey. “The committee did its best to ignore what came later, and to name a Mr. Basketball selection for each year. Now, with the 10th and final round of selections, the project is complete.”

“Just like with the current award, there will always be debate on the selections,” said Pesch. “Dave DeBusschere or Chet Walker? L.C. Bowen or Richie Jordan? Bill Chmielewski or Pete Gent? That’s a good thing. These players should never be forgotten in the halls of their high schools and by basketball fans across the nation. Michigan has produced and continues to turn out amazing athletic talent, year in and year out. So often, folks only recall the recent past. The ‘Retro’ Mr. Basketball project focuses a spotlight on our history.”

That spotlight now shines on the award that captures the names. Following the 2013 presentation of the award, BCAM retired the original Mr. Basketball trophy. The award has since been repurposed to capture the names of the “Retro” Mr. Basketball winners. The trophy now stands on display in East Lansing as part of the Tom Izzo Hall of History at the Breslin Center.



“A remarkable shot from almost any section of the floor and a splendid team player.” Led Jackson to the Class A title in 1929 and a runner-up finish in 1928 and was twice named to the all-tournament team. “Throughout the season Jagnow has been the outstanding player for Jackson and no team has been able to effectively stop him.” Was one of the leading scorers of the state tournament.

Forest Baldwin, Bridgman
– Captain of the Class D champion. Although not of unusual size, Baldwin was considered as lightning fast and a deceptive dribbler with an uncanny shot. He scored 22 points in the team’s Quarterfinal victory over Grand Rapids Godwin.

Neil Ludwick, Grand Rapids Creston – Center and top player on the best Creston team to date. Despite a Quarterfinal loss in the Class A tournament, Ludwick was singled out and named to the all-tourney team in 1929. A mid-year graduate in 1930.

Lester Wamsley, Highland Park – A steady, smart cager, Wamsley was an All-City selection by both the Detroit Times and Detroit Free Press, and a United Press International All-Tournament selection. Praised as an outstanding guard, good on long shots.



– The top vote-getter among coaches in the Detroit Free Press all-state balloting, Broene “averaged nearly 12 points a game against some of the strongest teams in the state.” According to the Detroit Times, where Broene also was named first team all-state, he was the reason Christian “cleaned up in the Furniture City league composed chiefly of Class A teams. He could do everything right” while leading Christian to the Class B title in 1938 and runner-up honors in 1939. Later played college ball at Calvin.

Chet Jurwiak, Kalamazoo St. Augustine
– “The state’s standout high school basketball player under the basket. He invariably grabbed 80 percent of the balls off the back board during a game,” wrote the Detroit Times when selecting him for first-team all-state honors. “Jurwiak was all-state in football and lost none of his ability on the court.”

Earl Kelly, Flint Northern, 6-foot-3 – described by a veteran Saginaw Valley Conference official as the best player in the league. Scored 176 points in 20 games in leading Northern to its third Class A championship in the school’s 11-year history. A mid-year graduate in 1939-40.

Ed (Nowaczyk) Novak, Flint St. Mary – First team all-state according to both the Free Press and the Times. Scored 260 points as a senior and, with his twin brother Edwin, “helped St. Mary annex the Class C state crown. Through his height he controlled the ball off both backboards, besides tossing in baskets on a highly productive basis.”

Frank Sabo, Detroit Southwestern – “Sabo was considered by many coaches as the best passer in the (Detroit city) league,” said the Free Press. “An outstanding floorman,” added the Detroit Times when naming Sabo to its all-city team. “Superlative off the backboard, a good shot and, above all, a fine leader.” Later played at Wayne University.



– “Without Burrell, Hamtramck never would have won 13 out of 17 [regular-season contests]” wrote the Detroit Times when naming him to its first team all-state squad. Burrell finished with 333 points leading the Cosmos in scoring over 19 games (17.5 points per game). Later played for Lawrence Tech.

Chuck Holloway, Detroit Northern, 5-foot-8
– “He’s an all-around star, outstanding in the clutch as exemplified in the (City League playoff) semifinal game against Central, where he led Northern in a rally to win. He topped the loop in scoring (14 point average), is fast and difficult to stop,” wrote the Times. “Despite his lack of height, was probably the most adept player in the (Detroit City) league. An uncanny shot, he led Northern into the finals of the (league) playoffs,” wrote the Free Press.

Harry Lauder, Ferndale, 5-foot-11, 155 – Spectacular scorer and all-around performer and the spark of his team. “Was ‘raved over’ by virtually everyone who saw him perform,” stated the Times, when selecting him for first-team all-state honors. Called by his coach, Roy Burkhart, “one of the smoothest all-around players I’ve ever seen. The kid also is loaded with basketball sense.” Later played freshman and varsity basketball at Michigan.

Lysle Smith, Port Huron, 5-foot-11, 155 – “Known as a ‘pressure’ player who also draws the evening’s toughest defensive assignment for his team. His 193 points this season were mostly on set shots from far out on the court,” wrote the Free Press, honoring Smith with first-team all-state accolades. Later played at Michigan, where he became the first cager from Port Huron to win a varsity letter.

Carl Tschirhart, Milan, 6-foot-0, 155 – An all-around athlete and key cog in Milan’s 1948 Class C title, Tschirhart “connected on 33 percent of his 288 shots from the floor” as Milan ran its win streak to 40 games straight, spanning two seasons, before falling in the Regionals of the 1949 tournament. Later played for Michigan Normal (now Eastern Michigan University).



– Averaged 27 points per game, including a high game of 41 points against Detroit Mackenzie in the Metropolitan League Tournament.  “Gaines was hailed by several League coaches as ‘the best we’ve seen in some time,’” noted the Detroit Times when it named him to its all-state “Dream Team” – the state’s top players regardless of school classification. Later attended LeMoyne College in Memphis, Tenn., before joining the Harlem Globetrotters.

John Bandy, Pontiac Central, 6-foot-3, 160
– A jump shooting specialist. “Averaged 19 points a game during the regular season to take the individual scoring title in the strong Saginaw Valley League,” said the Detroit Times, including him on its Dream Team. “Was Pontiac’s second leading rebounder,” wrote the Free Press when naming him Class A first-team all-state. “He could score from any spot on the floor.” Played college ball at Western Michigan University.

Jim Ludwig, Sault Ste. Marie, 6-foot-5½, 185 – “Rewrote virtually all of Sault Ste. Marie High’s individual scoring records,” wrote George Maskin in the Times. “A four-year veteran on the Blue Devils, he tossed in more than 1,100 points … During the recent season he collected over 450 points (373 in regular season play) and had a superlative shooting mark of 46 percent. Jim also headed the Soo in rebounds.”

Art Oliver, Muskegon Heights, 6-foot-0, 162 – Clever, sharpshooting guard. Leading scorer for the Tigers, totaling 318 points over 18 games, and 21.5 points per game over the last half of the season before the Heights fell to Grand Rapids Central in Regional play. A first-team all-state selection by both the Free Press and Times.

Art Reid, Hamtramck, 6-foot-2, 186 – “A superior rebounder and jumper, (and tireless worker), averaged 22 points a game for Hamtramck,” said Hal Schram in the Free Press. “Deadly from the corners as well as in front of the basket,” added the Times. He scored 364 points including 44 of 67 from the free throw line.

Jim Tilmon, Grand Rapids Central, 5-foot-9, 170 – “’Tilmon is the best around here since Don Eaddy,” chronicled Eugene Gailmeier of the Grand Rapids Herald. “Although basically a guard, Tilmon rotated so swiftly from one position to another it was impossible to tell at times what job he actually held,” said the Times. Led the city league in scoring. His 27 points in the Regional Final snapped Muskegon Heights’ string of 17 tournament wins and helped place Central in the Quarterfinals for only the third time in postseason history.



– Played on back-to-back Class A champion teams at Ottawa Hills in 1968 and 1969. According to The Associated Press, which named Johnson to its Class A all-state squad, he “averaged 22 points and taps in numerous errant shots. It is hard to stop his push shot. He shoots 60 percent from the floor and on defense blocks many shots. Johnson also grabbed 13 rebounds a game.” Besides earning Dream Team honors from the Detroit News, Johnson was named to the state championship all-tournament team.

Ken Brady, Flint Central, 6-foot-9, 220
– Best big man to come out of Flint in many years. “Despite his 220 pounds, Brady gets up and down a basketball court with the agility and speed of a dashman. (Coach Clif) Turner insists he is often more valuable for his defensive play than his point production,” said Hal Schram in a midseason article. Set a new city scoring mark with 521 points in 21 games while helping Central win the Valley conference title. United Press International ‘Player of the Year’ in Michigan.

Tom Marsh, Detroit Northern, 6-foot-1, 168 – “Possibly the best player in either the Detroit Catholic or public school league” said The Associated Press, Marsh “became Northern’s first player to top 1,000 points in three varsity seasons. He averaged 27 points a game and was a fine outside shooter.”

Tim Megge, Orchard Lake St. Mary, 6-foot-2, 175 – Averaged 25.4 points a game, including a school record 56 points in one game, preceded by a 51-point game. Hit 46 percent of his field goal attempts and 72 percent of his foul shots according to UPI. In 81 games during his four-year varsity career, Megge scored 1,612 points.

Bob Rhodin, Ypsilanti – 6-foot-3½, 170 – “Led Ypsilanti to a 22-1 record and a No. 1 rating in the final AP poll. Scored 360 points during the year for a 19 point average and was the team’s top rebounder, grabbing 227,” said the AP.  “Coach Dick Ouellette calls him ‘the best all-around player I’ve ever had.’ Rhodin has tremendous hustle and is a great defensive ballplayer.”

Cal Tatum Muskegon, 6-foot-1, 170 – "For his size, I've never seen an athlete who is so proficient in so many phases of the game," said then-Muskegon coach Mike Murphy. A guard, Tatum averaged 22.4 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals per game his senior year to earn first-team all-state honors. He graduated as the Big Reds' all-time leading scorer with 1,250 career points, and an average of 22.7 points per game as a senior.



– Set a single-season scoring mark as a junior with 912 points then topped it as a senior, scoring 952 points, averaging 35.3 points across 26 games combined. Finished his four-year prep career with 2,841 points – still a state record in Michigan.

Tim Andree, Birmingham Brother Rice, 6-foot-10, 230
– The “best big man in the state,” wrote Hal Schram in the Free Press. Averaged 23 points and 17 rebounds per game.

James Koger, Saginaw, 6-foot-4, 190 – A 1,000-plus career scorer who averaged 19.7 points, 11 rebounds and shot 47 percent from the floor” said the AP. “He ran the Saginaw offense,” added the Free Press in its first-team all-state write-up. “When he wasn’t in the lineup, Saginaw was a very ordinary team.”

Melvin McLaughlin, Grand Rapids Creston, 6-foot-1, 170 – Considered the state’s top “pure shooter,” McLaughlin scored 1,577 points, a 25.4 average, in his three-year career at Creston. Exceeded the 35-point mark in a game on four occasions as a senior.

Evaristo Perez, Orchard Lake St. Mary, 6-foot-8, 210 – Despite being in the U.S. less than two years, the Dominican Republic native averaged 22 points and 15 rebounds while hitting 57 percent of his shots. “He’s a real competitor and a leader on the flow,” St. Mary coach Bob Shoemaker told the Free Press. “We do a lot of things on the court, and he picked them up right away.”

Derek Perry, River Rouge, 6-foot-6, 210 – Coach Lofton Greene told Hal Schram that Perry was “probably the finest offensive player he has ever coached.” Averaged more than 28 points per game and “an incredible field-goal shooting percentage of 64 percent” entering the postseason.

Erich Santifer, Ann Arbor Huron, 6-foot-5, 165. “He has been the most valuable player in the rugged South Central Conference two years in a row,” said the Lansing State Journal at tournament time. “He prefers to work inside, but can also produce from long range as well.” Santifer held a 22.3 points per game average headed into the tournament Regional Final against Lansing Eastern, then scored 36 points against the Quakers in the contest although Huron was eliminated. “He’s probably the finest player we saw all season,” said Lansing Eastern coach Paul Cook. Later excelled at Syracuse.


(College Attended Shown in Parenthesis)
Players from 1981-Present were honored as part of the current BCAM/Detroit Free Press Hal Schram Mr. Basketball Award. Players from 1920-1980 were selected as part of BCAM’s decade-long “Retro” Mr. Basketball project, launched in 2010 and completed in 2019.

2019 Romeo Weems, New Haven (DePaul)
2018 Foster Loyer, Clarkston (Michigan State)
2017 Isaiah Livers, Kalamazoo Central (Michigan)
2016 Cassius Winston, University of Detroit Jesuit (Michigan State)
2015 Deyonta Davis, Muskegon (Michigan State)
2014 DeShawn Thrower, Muskegon (Stony Brook/Ferris State)
2013 Monte Morris, Flint Beecher (Iowa State)
2012 Matt Costello, Bay City Western (Michigan State)
2011 Dwaun Anderson, Suttons Bay (Wagner)
2010 Keith Appling, Detroit Pershing (Michigan State)

2009 Derrick Nix, Detroit Pershing (Michigan State)
2008 Brad Redford, Frankenmuth (Xavier)
2007 Corperryale Harris, Detroit Redford (Michigan)
2006 David Kool, Grand Rapids South Christian (Western Michigan)
2005 Wilson Chandler, Benton Harbor (DePaul)
2004 Drew Neitzel, Wyoming Park (Michigan State)
2003 Dion Harris, Detroit Redford (Michigan)
2002 Paul Davis, Rochester (Michigan State)
2001 Kelvin Torbert, Flint Northwestern (Michigan State)
2000 Marcus Taylor, Lansing Waverly (Michigan State)

1999 Jason Richardson, Saginaw Arthur Hill (Michigan State)
1998 Dane Fife, Clarkston (Indiana)
1997 Shane Battier, Detroit Country Day (Duke)
1996 Winfred Walton, Detroit Pershing (Fresno State)
1995 Robert Traylor, Detroit Murray-Wright (Michigan)
1994 Willie Mitchell, Detroit Pershing (Michigan/UAB)
1993 Jon Garavaglia, Southgate Aquinas (Michigan State)
1992 Kenyon Murray, Battle Creek Central (Iowa)
1991 Chris Webber, Detroit Country Day (Michigan)
1990 Anthony Miller, Benton Harbor (Michigan State)

1989 Michael Talley, Detroit Cooley (Michigan)
1988 Matt Steigenga, Grand Rapids South Christian (Michigan State)
1987 Mark Macon, Saginaw Buena Vista (Temple)
1986 Terry Mills, Romulus (Michigan)
1985 Glen Rice, Flint Northwestern (Michigan)
1984 Demetreus Gore, Detroit Chadsey (Pittsburgh)
1983 Antoine Joubert, Detroit Southwestern (Michigan)
1982 Robert Henderson, Lansing Eastern (Michigan)
1981 Sam Vincent, Lansing Eastern (Michigan State)
1980 Tim McCormick, Clarkston (Michigan)

1979 Jay Smith, Mio-AuSable (Bowling Green/Saginaw Valley)
1978 Trent Tucker, Flint Northwestern (Minnesota)
1977 Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Lansing Everett (Michigan State)
1976 Stuart House, Detroit Denby (Washington State)
1975 Bruce Flowers, Berkley (Notre Dame)
1974 Tony Smith, Saginaw (Nevada-Las Vegas)
1973 Tom LaGarde, Detroit Catholic Central (North Carolina)
1972 Larry Fogle, Detroit Cooley (Southern Louisiana/Canisius)
1971 Michael "Campy" Russell, Pontiac Central (Michigan)
1970 Rick Drewitz, Garden City West (Kentucky)

1969 Ernie Johnson, Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills (Michigan)
1968 Ralph Simpson, Detroit Pershing (Michigan State)
1967 Spencer Haywood, Detroit Pershing (University of Detroit)
1966 Rudy Tomjanovich, Hamtramck (Michigan)
1965 L.C. Bowen, Benton Harbor (Bradley)
1964 Willie Betts, River Rouge (Bradley)
1963 Craig Dill, Saginaw Arthur Hill (Michigan)
1962 Ernie Thompson, Saginaw (Bradley)
1961 Reggie Harding, Detroit Eastern
1960 Peter Gent, Bangor (Michigan State)

1959 David Gaines, Detroit Northeastern (LeMoyne, now LeMoyne-Owens)
1958 Chet Walker, Benton Harbor (Bradley)
1957 Ed Burton (Michigan State)
1956 Mel Peterson, Stephenson (Wheaton)
1955 M.C. Burton, Jr., Muskegon Heights (Michigan)
1954 Pete Tillotson, Ludington (Michigan)
1953 Ron Kramer, East Detroit (Michigan)
1952 Frank Tanana, Sr., Detroit St. Andrew, (Cal State-Fullerton – baseball)
1951 Webster Kirksey, Saginaw (Eastern Michigan)
1950 Charlie Primas, Detroit Miller (Wayne State)

1949 Ken Burrell, Hamtramck (Lawrence Tech)
1948 Art McColgan, Saginaw SS Peter & Paul (Villanova)
1947 Sammy Gee, Detroit Miller
1946 Jack Forestieri, Benton Harbor (Notre Dame)
1945 Bob Swanson, Lansing Sexton (Michigan)
1944 Dick Rifenburg, Saginaw Arthur Hill (Michigan)
1943 Don Boven, Kalamazoo Central (Western Michigan)
1942 Larry Savage, Saginaw (Northwestern)
1941 Don Osterman, Detroit St. Theresa (Villanova)
1940 Ralph Gibert, Flint Northern (Michigan)

1939 Gene Broene, Grand Rapids Christian (Calvin College)
1938 John Maartens, Kalamazoo Central
1937 Bob Osterman, Detroit St. Theresa (Notre Dame)
1936 Charles Pink, Detroit Northwestern (Michigan)
1935 John Zwier, Holland Christian
1934 Earl Brown, Jr., Benton Harbor (Notre Dame)
1933 Lincoln Dodson Truss, Flint Northern
1932 Lowell Matteson, Portage
1931 Edward Huttenga, Grand Haven (Western Michigan)
1930 John Tooker, Kalamazoo St. Augustine (Michigan)

1929 Louis Jagnow, Jackson (Carnegie Tech)
1928 Francis Doolittle, Detroit Northwestern
1927 Bill McCall, Muskegon (Dartmouth)
1926 Roger Grove, Sturgis (Michigan State)
1925 Joe Truskowski, Detroit Northeastern (Michigan)
1924 Bennie Oosterbaan, Muskegon (Michigan)
1923 Henry Schrumpf, Niles (Western Michigan)
1922 Royal Cherry, Grand Rapids Union (Michigan)
1921 George Haggarty, Ypsilanti (Michigan)
1920 Harry Kipke, Lansing Central (Michigan)

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.)