Marine City Rising Under Familiar Leader

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

January 30, 2019

Championship celebrations aren’t unfamiliar in Marine City. It’s just that they typically don’t happen after a boys basketball game.

The town most known for its football prowess is experiencing some extra excitement this winter, as the basketball program – now led by the same man who leads the football program, coach Ron Glodich – is seeing success it hasn’t seen in decades.

On Jan. 22, the Mariners boys basketball team clinched its first conference title since 1985, and three nights later, after another Macomb Area Conference Bronze win, they cut down the nets in their home gym.

“It was a great feeling, because I’m going to keep that net for the rest of my life,” Marine City junior Angelo Patsalis said. “When I look back at it, I’ll know this team was special.”

The Mariners were 10-2 overall and 7-0 in the MAC Bronze through January, and are changing the way people feel about their program. Now big, raucous crowds aren’t limited to just fall Fridays at East China Stadium.

“It’s definitely starting to change,” senior point guard Jack Kretzschmar said. “We didn’t really used to get a lot of people at home games because people just assumed we were going to lose. Now everyone is starting to show up, and the atmosphere they’re bringing to basketball is crazy.”

It’s no coincidence that Glodich, who has had multiple roles in Marine City athletics since taking a job at the school in 1987, is a common thread between the programs. 

Most of his success has come on the football field, where he’s been head coach since 2012, and was the offensive coordinator prior to that, as the team won Division 4 championships in 2007 and 2013 and made several other deep playoff runs. He’s also coached volleyball and baseball and had a previous stint as the boys basketball coach during the early 2000s. 

For the football players who also play basketball at Marine City, they knew exactly what to expect when Glodich took over.

“It’s the same guy,” Patsalis said. “If we’re in halftime and down by a couple points and not playing well, he still gets pretty fired up. The intensity kind of helps, because it fires you up to be better and pushes you to get to your potential.”

While each sport has its own quirks, Glodich has been able to apply many of his same coaching philosophies no matter which ball is in play.

“One of the things that stays consistent (from sport to sport) is the way we practice,” Glodich said. “We believe in high tempo, fast-paced practices. We break things down to bits and pieces and work on them, and that stays consistent. Getting into a good stance, that’s a commonality in all sports.”

A commonality between Glodich’s football and basketball methods is movement on offense, and just like it has done for decades on the gridiron, it’s having success now on the court.

“We know how to score and how to get kids moving, which makes us difficult to defend,” Glodich said. “We have one base offense, but we have some wrinkles going on. This group has some very good team speed, and we’re trying to put pressure on defenses, not letting them get settled.”

That speed also allows the Mariners to run, making up for a lack of size as the Mariners’ tallest player stands at just 6 feet, 4 inches.

“Even the drills we do in practice, basically we’re always running, and that correlates to the games,” Kretzschmar said. “Everyone on our team has such a high basketball IQ and we have a lot of chemistry built in over the last few years, so we know that we’re best when we’re running.”

That strategy helped make it a bit easier to transition from a football season that ended in the Division 5 Semifinals to the opening night of hoops in less than two weeks.

“Football got us conditioned, so we were already conditioned when we started the season,” Patsalis said. “When we got against that first team, we were ready to go.”

Glodich’s strong supporting staff also played a large role.

“Thankfully, I have a wonderful JV coach in Scott Hand,” Glodich said. “Not only did we go deep into the season with football, but basketball started a week early. In November, I had shoulder surgery, so it’s been a blessing to have such a wonderful JV coach who could handle things.”

The strong start never really stopped, as even the Mariners’ two losses came in double overtime against rival St. Clair, and to a 13-1 Richmond team. Winning the conference title was just the start, as there’s plenty more to play for the rest of the season.

“After Tuesday of next week, we get into the MAC tournament, so the Bronze and the Silver have four teams from each cross over in a three-game tournament,” Glodich said. “We would like to show that the Bronze, even though we’re the bottom level of the MAC, have a level of play that’s as competitive as the next league. Then, obviously, we move on to the District.”

There’s a long way to go, but the Mariners hope to at least continue building Marine City’s reputation as more than a football school.

“We kind of have a chip on our shoulder, because we’ve been known as a ‘football’ school for so long; we’re looking to bring that to basketball,” Kretzschmar said. “I think it’s just a special group of kids that we have, and everyone is trying to kind of change the culture to being an ‘athletic’ school.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Marine City’s Reese Adamczyk (40) pulls up for a jumper during last week’s win over Center Line. (Middle) Mariners coach Ron Glodich. (Below) Tanner Mason (33) muscles for a shot in the post. (Action photos by Ally Swantek.)

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.)