Senior Standout Squires Knows Role, Relishes it as Petoskey Seeks to Rise

By Tom Spencer
Special for

February 17, 2023

A year can make a big difference.

Northern Lower PeninsulaBut a year of hard work can make a much bigger difference.  

It certainly did for Petoskey senior Michael Squires.

“Petoskey boys basketball will ‘go down swinging’ with the Michael Squires of this world,” said second-year Northmen coach Matt Tamm. “Michael is a great teammate and even better person.

“Michael is a great young person that I have had the honor of coaching for three years.”

The first year Squires played for Tamm was as a sophomore on the junior varsity team.  The second, Squire’s junior season, began to make Squires think about not returning for his senior year. He opted instead for a year of hard work before coming back to the court.

Northmen fans are glad he did. Squires is the team’s leading rebounder and strongest defender.

After my junior year, I debated coming to play my senior year after my limited play time, but I am glad that I did,” Squires said. “The work that I put in my junior year paired with an increase in size and strength allowed me to earn a role on the team and contribute to the success we have had.”

Squires, who sports a 3.98 GPA while taking honors and advanced placement courses, is finding tremendous success on the court after a stellar fall soccer season filled with postseason honors. He’s also looking to wrap up his senior year helping his golf team reach the Finals this spring.

The Northmen are 12-5 overall and 5-3 in Big North Conference play heading into tonight’s home contest with Cadillac, the conference leader. Petoskey lost to Cadillac in the first meeting, 68-65 in overtime, as Jaden Montague hit a 3-pointer well outside of the arc with just four ticks remaining. The Northmen’s last shot in regulation was blocked by Cadillac.

A win tonight and another over second-place Traverse City Central next week could wreak havoc on the title race. Petoskey lost to Central 72-59 earlier this season, and its other conference loss was in double overtime at Traverse City West.

Squires elevates again, this time on the soccer pitch against Traverse City West.“Our focus is on playing good basketball,” Tamm said.  “If we play good basketball, winning and losing will take care of itself.  

“Cadillac is a quality opponent, and we look forward to the challenge.”

The Northmen are also looking forward to postseason play after winning their District last year. Four Big North Conference opponents, along with Marquette and Sault St. Marie, are the initial competition.

A postseason run could be in the cards again, Squires believes.

“This year I believe that the District is open for us to win, but once we reach the Regional round we will likely play teams such as Grand Blanc who are very good,” Squires said. “If we play to the quality of basketball that we have shown earlier in the season, and I know we are capable of, winning the region is something that I think we can accomplish.”

Squires’ senior-season success wasn’t exactly anticipated — due to his first three seasons at Petoskey. His freshman year featured his offensive side. His sophomore season saw most all of his playing time recorded as a substitute.

Limited playing time on the varsity as a junior led to thoughts of no more basketball. But all that changed.

Tamm has always focused on individual roles. He and Squires believe they found the right one for the 6-foot-2 standout.

“The biggest difference between this year and last year for me, I believe, was my mentality toward basketball and how I would contribute to the team,” Squires said. “As many people do, I would love to score a lot of points – but this year the realization that that’s not my role was key in my development. 

“That realization allowed me to put forth all my effort into what I’m best at – defense and rebounding,” he continued. “This year I took my role of shutdown defender and rebounder more to heart and committed myself to doing what I am good at and what our team needs me to do for us to be successful.”

Squires officiates during a Petoskey youth tournament earlier this month.Tamm said Squires plays the exact role the Northmen need.

“Michael understands and accepts his role on the team,” Tamm said. “He is not our strongest offensive player — he understands that.  

“But he plays excellent defense, rebounds, sets screens, slashes at the basket and dives after loose balls,” Tamm continued. “Michael does not take the ill-advised shot. … He seldom —  if ever — misses a defensive assignment or box out and generally takes care of the ball and makes the right pass.”

Tamm also points to Squires’ work ethic and positive attitude as keys to his success. Squires worked closely with Mike Zenk, the Petoskey boys basketball strength and conditioning coach, and made gains.  

“Michael grew, and he filled out,” Tamm said. “He shows up every day – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – and he always remained positive.”

Squires, who prides himself on playing outstanding defense and attacking the offensive boards, finds tremendous joy in shutting down the opposing team as Tamm normally assigns him the other team’s best player to defend.

“Some people find the most enjoyment in scoring points but I equally enjoy stopping someone from scoring and throwing someone off their game,” Squires said.

When basketball ends next month, Squires will turn his thoughts to his last career sports goal, and likely move on to study mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan. He’s also been accepted at Michigan State and Purdue.

“Before I graduate I would like to make it to the state tournament in golf as we missed out on it last year,” Squires said. “This year we have a pretty good team, and I feel we have a good shot at making it.”

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Petoskey’s Michael Squires rises above a pair of Traverse City Central defenders for a shot. (Middle) Squires elevates again, this time on the soccer pitch against Traverse City West. (Below) Squires officiates during a Petoskey youth tournament earlier this month. (Photos by Billy McNamara.)

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.)