Muxlow Family Has New All-Time Leading Scorer; Brown City May Soon As Well

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

March 8, 2023

When Gaden Muxlow talked to his sister Kendal after passing her career point total, he received a congratulatory response – with a caveat.

Bay & Thumb“She gave me the speech about how she had to miss so many games because of her ACL injuries,” Gaden said with a laugh.

Passing a family member in the Muxlow house – regardless of how many games that family member had to miss – is quite an accomplishment, as the family is all over the Brown City basketball record books. Kendal is the all-time leading scorer in the girls program, with 1,419 points. Mom, Shari, isn’t far behind at 1,363, and dad, Doug, had 1,327.

Gaden sits at 1,481, atop his family ranks and 22 behind the school’s all-time leading scorer Justin McPhail.

With the postseason starting tonight for Brown City, it’s not a guarantee Muxlow will catch McPhail – but it’s a pretty comfortable expectation.

He’s scored at least 22 points in 18 of the Green Devils’ 22 games this season, averaging 27.6 points per game on his way to a school-record 607. The person he had to pass to break that record? Dad.

“Ever since I was a kid, basketball has always been a big focus in our family,” Gaden Muxlow said. “I remember watching my sister in AAU tournaments as a kid, it’s always on the TV. Since I was a kid, I always had goals to beat my siblings. It always gave me a little bit of fire, and I started getting a little more into the season, and as I got closer, we started talking about it a little more in my family. (Passing Kendal) actually felt really good, because my sister was pretty talented, and I grew up watching her play.”

It’s not just family records that Muxlow has been breaking, as he and his teammates enjoyed a 21-1 regular season, which included a Greater Thumb Conference East title.

Muxlow scored a school-record 45 points in a game against Ubly. He has hit 187 of his 222 free throws, smashing the previous mark of 127. He’s also made 62 3-pointers on the season, 13 behind the school record, but not out of reach if the Green Devils make a run.

The Muxlows celebrate Gaden’s signing with Rochester College. “He’s a great player,” Brown City coach Bob Hatten said. “He elevates the players around him. He does a good job of staying unselfish, but he also knows in key moments when to take over.”

Muxlow has signed to play at Rochester University, making him the fourth player in his family who will play college basketball.

Kendal is currently at Purdue University-Fort Wayne, Shari played at Dayton and Doug played at Cornerstone.

Gaden’s older brother, Caleb, played football at Concordia.

“I guess it wasn’t as much pressure as it was a lot of people were telling me they were expecting big things from me, and they were excited to watch me play,” Gaden said. “I guess it was a little bit of pressure, and a bit of excitement, as well. I wanted to do as well as I could to live up to the hype or the name, or whatever.”

He’s certainly done that. And when opposing teams were throwing every exotic defense they could think of at him this season, it wasn’t because of his name. It was because of his track record.

“Early in the season, we saw everything,” Hatten said. “Box and one, triangle and two where both guys were on Gaden. We saw teams full court deny him with two guys. We trailed in the second half in seven of our first nine games, and we had to find a way to win some close ones. It was probably midseason when a lot of our guys started falling more in line with their roles and started being more comfortable.”

Thanks to those players fulfilling their roles, and playing well around Muxlow, the Green Devils have thrived, and teams can be punished for focusing too much attention on him.

Fellow senior captains Clint Ford and Callen Hagey have excelled in leadership roles, while also providing some scoring cover for Muxlow. Senior Brandon Kohler has been a threat from the outside, keeping teams honest.

As a team, the Green Devils are holding the opposition to just 39.3 points per game. They’re also executing in areas that win big games, shooting 72.5 percent from the free throw line and turning the ball over fewer than 10 times per game.

The cohesiveness and success make sense when you realize most of these players have been playing with one another since elementary school.

“I think that’s probably the biggest piece to our success; we never have to worry about any drama,” Muxlow said. “Everybody gets along, everybody’s goal is the same thing – just to win. Everybody is buying into their roles. I don’t really feel like I’m doing this in a ball hog way, it’s just a piece to the puzzle that we’ve built along the way. Everybody bought into their role, and everybody knows what they’re doing. I know my role is to put the ball in the bucket, and I do whatever I can to help us win.

“It feels more special that it’s helping and leading to wins.”

Paul CostanzoPaul 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) Brown City’s Gaden Muxlow, right, brings the ball upcourt during a win over Burton Atherton this season. (Middle) The Muxlows celebrate Gaden’s signing with Rochester University. (Photos courtesy of the Muxlow family.)

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.)