Performance: Clarkston's Foster Loyer

February 5, 2017

Foster Loyer
Clarkston junior – Basketball

The Wolves’ junior point guard has been making good on high expectations since entering high school, and in one way he didn’t miss for nearly a year. Starting with last season’s regular-season finale against West Bloomfield, Loyer put together an MHSAA record streak of 119 straight made free throws to earn the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week” for Jan. 23-29.

Loyer’s streak came to an end when he missed his first free throw in a 59-39 win over North Farmington on Jan. 24. His record surpassed by 17 the former milestone set by Frankenmuth’s Brad Redford during the 2007-08 season and will rank second in the national record book when submitted after this season. Loyer joined the Clarkston varsity as a highly-touted freshmen two years ago and this winter has led the Wolves to a 13-0 start averaging 25.2 points, six assists and 4.4 rebounds per game, making 44 percent of his 3-point attempts and 95.6 percent of his tries from the free throw line. 

Some of the high expectations for Loyer rise from legacy; his dad John has been an assistant for four NBA teams including the Detroit Pistons, whom he led as interim head coach at the end of the 2013-14 season. Foster also has learned under the tutelage of longtime Clarkston coach Dan Fife, who took over the program in 1983 and is the fourth-winningest in MHSAA boys hoops history. Loyer – who also played baseball for a season at Clarkston – has committed to sign this fall with Michigan State University. A strong student as well, he’s looking to study business management with an eye on working in sports once his playing days are done. But first, he’ll try to lead Clarkston its first MHSAA championship after the team fell in overtime in a Class A Regional Semifinal last season to eventual semifinalist Macomb Dakota, and also by two in 2015 in a Quarterfinal to Detroit U-D Jesuit.

Coach Dan Fife said: “He shoots every day, and when he shoots, he shoots with a purpose. He’s a hard worker, he puts a lot of time in, and all the time he puts in really shows in the way he plays. … His court IQ is just incredible. He sees the game ahead of time. He has a great floor sense, where people are. As a freshman he was the same way, and one of the bigger things is when he gets upset, he doesn’t show a lot of anger when he makes a mistake. Mistakes don’t lead to two mistakes with him. He doesn’t get caught up in that stuff, he doesn’t get caught up in who he is; he just keeps his focus. And as good a player as he is, he’s just as good a kid. In the hallways, you wouldn’t know (he’s a basketball standout); he doesn’t walk like that. He’s just one of the kids.”

Performance Point: “Going into this year, I knew I’d made a bunch in a row but I had no idea what number I was at,” Loyer said of his free throws. “I didn’t pay much attention, but I think when I passed 100 some of my teammates started messing with me, letting me hear it when I missed one in practice. … I approach every free throw the same, and when the shot (that broke the streak) left my hand, I had no thought going through my mind that it wasn’t going to go in. It rolled in and out pretty bad, and when it came off the front of the rim, the thought definitely went through my head and I heard the rest of the crowd knew about it. They took a loud gasp, and that’s pretty much how I felt about it. I was definitely disappointed, but when something like that comes to an end, you move on and go on to the next play.”

Part of the arsenal: “I would consider free throw shooting a serious weapon, especially being the point guard in an end-of-game situation. At the end of the game, being able to hit free throws, especially in high school where there’s no shot clock, the game is over in my mind. I’m confident in myself and my teammates to be able to go and knock free throws down. Just being in the gym every day, it’s something you practice every day, day in and day out. It’s called a free throw for a reason; in my mind, you’re supposed to make them.”

Thanks Dad: “If we’re watching film or being in the gym every day, my dad has been a positive influence in my life and basketball career. Just being able to take the things he says, and build off of them to make myself a better player. Every time we watch film, normally you should look not only at what you did right but also what you did wrong and can improve on. That’s been the biggest part of the game my dad has helped me improve.”

Win one for Coach: “(A Class A title) would mean the world to us guys as players, as a team, with the brotherhood we’ve built. But not only that, it would mean the world for us to win Coach Fife that state championship. Coach Fife doesn’t talk much about how much that means to him, but he’s had some difficult losses, and I think in the back of our minds it would solidify his legacy, solidify our legacy as a team, that we came in here and made our mark.”

Leading the way: “Day in and day out at practice, I pride myself in doing so, bringing leadership to the team, making sure guys are working as hard as they should be. As a leader and a point guard on a basketball team, you have to push guys not only to do what they should be doing, but it’s more than that. Going into March, we had a lot of guys in the locker room after (last season’s Regional loss), and we have a lot of guys who know what that feeling is like, and that’s a feeling we never want to go through again.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2016-17 school year, Second Half and the Michigan National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Previous 2016-17 honorees:
Jan. 26: Nick Jenkins, Detroit Catholic Central wrestling – Read
Jan. 19: Eileene Naniseni, Mancelona basketball Read
Jan. 12: Rory Anderson, Calumet hockey – Read
Dec. 15: Demetri Martin, Big Rapids basketball Read
Dec. 1: Rodney Hall, Detroit Cass Tech football Read
Nov. 24: Ally Cummings, Novi volleyball Read
Nov. 17: Chloe Idoni, Fenton volleyball Read
Nov. 10: Adelyn Ackley, Hart cross country Read
Nov. 3: Casey Kirkbride, Mattawan soccer – Read
Oct. 27: Colton Yesney, Negaunee cross country Read
Oct. 20: Varun Shanker, Midland Dow tennis Read
Oct. 13: Anne Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country – Read
Oct. 6: Shuaib Aljabaly, Coldwater cross country – Read
Sept. 29: Taylor Seaman, Brighton swimming & diving – Read
Sept. 22: Maggie Farrell, Battle Creek Lakeview cross country – Read
Sept. 15: Franki Strefling, Buchanan volleyball – Read
Sept. 8: Noah Jacobs, Corunna cross country – Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Clarkston's Foster Loyer brings the ball upcourt during a game this season. (Middle) Loyer attempts a free throw; he recently capped an MHSAA record streak of 119 straight makes. (Photos by Larry Wright/

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.)