Horky's Scoring Helps Manchester Take Flight

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

January 31, 2019

MANCHESTER – The night before the highest scoring game of Tyler Horky’s life, one of his closest friends was involved in a car wreck.

“It was bad,” Horky said. “He was hit right on the driver’s side door. It was a pretty bad accident. It was life-threatening.”

When Manchester went on the road the next night to play at Vandercook Lake, the 6-foot-1 junior wrote “RH” on his wrist tape in honor of his friend, Michigan Center standout Roger Hayward, the teenager in the crash. Hayward reportedly required multiple surgeries in the days after the wreck.

“We played AAU basketball together,” Horky said. “I was really motivated that night. I thought about the accident a lot that night.”

Once he hit the basketball floor, though, there was little stopping Horky. Manchester fell behind, but Horky led a valiant comeback to push the game into overtime. Although Manchester lost, Horky finished with 47 points and showed he was going to be a force in the Cascades Conference this season.

“Believe it or not, it was a quiet 47,” said Manchester head coach Mike Ahrens. “He also contributed three assists, had six steals and only turned the ball over once. It was a unique, fast-paced game.”

Horky has showed the 47-point outburst wasn’t a mirage. Through 13 games, he’s averaging 26 points a game, and has had nights of 36, 31, 31, 27, 25, 25 and 24 points. Even coach Ahrens was a little surprised at how well Horky is scoring this season.

“I envisioned this kind of game could happen next season,” he said.

Horky has always had the talent. As a freshman, however, he broke his arm and missed the entire season. As a sophomore, coming off the injury, he lacked confidence but still averaged 12 points a game.

“I put in a lot of work in the offseason,” Horky said. “I worked a lot with the team, my travel team and my dad. It’s been a climb. This year it has really opened up for me.”

Horky’s scoring spree began with the season opener when he scored 25 against Clinton.

“Since then, I’ve been facing double and triple teams almost every game,” he said. “Some teams start denying me the ball as soon as I cross halfcourt. My teammates have taken a lot of the pressure off me, both by scoring inside and with ball-handling.

“Our coach does a great job of just letting us play, run the pick-and-roll with our bigs and coming off screens.”

Ahrens said while Horky is a great scorer, that’s not his only strength.

“He gives 110 percent effort in all of our drills,” Ahrens said. “He takes pride on defense and leads by example. He listens really well, which is an underrated skill.”

Ahrens, in his first year coaching at his alma mater, picks a defensive player of the game for all of the Dutchmen contests. Horky has earned that honor four times.

“I sincerely believe he is getting better and better at every practice and every game,” Ahrens said.

This past summer Horky, who plays travel basketball with the Ann Arbor Basketball Academy, attended camps at Grand Valley State University and Central Michigan University.

Horky said his AAU experience – particularly the speed of the game and frequent fast breaks and man-to-man defense – helped prepare him for the Cascades Conference this season.

The league is rugged with state-ranked Hanover-Horton (12-1), Michigan Center (11-2) and Vandercook Lake (10-4). Horky’s Dutchmen check in fourth at 7-6 overall with games against Michigan Center (Feb. 5) and Hanover-Horton (Feb. 8) coming up.

Horky is a three-sport athlete at Manchester and carries a 3.9 grade-point average as a member of the National Honor Society. He is the quarterback on the Dutchmen football team.

“Basketball is probably my favorite but when it’s football season, then it’s only football on my mind,” he said. “Football is special.”

Horky is the son of Corey and Abbie Horky. His father is in the Blissfield High School Athletic Hall of Fame and his mother was a high jumper at the University of Michigan following a multiple-sport career at Onsted High School. He has two younger brothers, ages 9 and 12.

He wants to play college basketball. “My ultimate goal is to try to play basketball at the highest level I can,” he said, noting U-M is his dream hoops destination.

Horky still has to finish out this season and has his senior season ahead of him to continue his scoring and filling out as an all-around basketball player. Ahrens, who has coached at various levels for nearly 40 years, said Horky has what it takes to get to the next level.

“He not only pushes himself, but will push teammates as well,” he said. “He truly understands there is more to the game than just scoring.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTO: Manchester junior Tyler Horky brings the ball upcourt. (Photo by Doug Donnelly.)

Championship Experience from Coach's Point of View Unimaginable, Unforgettable

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com

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 MHSAA.com 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.)