Breslin Bound: Girls District Preview

March 2, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The first games of the MHSAA Girls Basketball Tournament tip off Monday evening, a restart for every team after three months of grinding toward these final three weeks of the season. 

To kick off Districts, this week's Breslin Bound report looks at five teams in each class that have made some of the biggest waves throughout this winter. 

Click to “track the tournament,” with results as we receive them and interactive brackets.


Bloomfield Hills Marian (19-1) – The reigning Class A champion remains undefeated against Michigan competition; its lone loss was Jan. 17 to Chicago Whitney Young, which finished its season 27-2. The Mustangs handed Detroit Martin Luther King its only loss, 50-49 in Thursday’s Operation Friendship game, and also own wins over Farmington Hills Mercy, Flint Powers Catholic, Benton Harbor and Class C contender Ypsilanti Arbor Prep.

Detroit Martin Luther King (19-1) – As noted above, King didn’t fall this season until Thursday against Marian, and then by only one point – giving the Crusaders only two regular-season losses total over the last three winters. King earned a 25-point win during holiday break over Port Huron Northern, now 17-3, and continued to build strength through a perfect Detroit Public School League run.

Flushing (20-0) – The Raiders opened strong with wins over eventual league champions Flint Powers Catholic and Midland Dow and kept on cruising to improve significantly on last season’s 13-9 finish. Flushing added another big victory last week – 50-48 in overtime over Saginaw Heritage, which is 17-3 – and should enjoy that momentum heading into the tournament.   

Marquette (20-0) – The Redettes built on a great 19-3 finish a year ago to end up even better this regular season. In addition to again winning the Great Northern Upper Peninsula Conference title, Marquette shined against strong competition from downstate, beating Brighton (16-4) and Traverse City West (17-3) during the first month. 

Southfield Lathrup (19-1) – Only a two-point loss to Toledo Rogers (Ohio) on Dec. 13 has kept the Chargers from a perfect record. Lathrup sandwiched that loss with impressive wins over the PSL’s Detroit Cass Tech and Renaissance during the first two weeks and have since added impressive victories over Arbor Prep (17-3), Southfield (18-2) and Grosse Pointe South (16-4).


Midland Bullock Creek (20-0) – The Lancers have added to their two straight MHSAA Semifinals runs with a perfect regular season keyed by a trio of 1,000-point scoring seniors in Halee Nieman, Ellie Juengel and Hannah Heldt (read more from the Midland Daily News). Bullock Creek dominated a Tri-Valley Conference Central with six teams that have at least 10 wins, plus won its crossovers against Frankenmuth and Ithaca – both are 18-2.

Grand Rapids Catholic Central (18-2) – The Cougars earned a share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference title on Feb. 20 with a 22-point win over Wayland that avenged an earlier double-overtime loss to their league rival. The only other loss was to Arbor Prep – which came at the end of a two-week run that featured impressive wins over Sparta (18-2) and Class A Grand Rapids Christian (16-4) by 37 points.

Plainwell (20-0) – The Trojans’ perfect run has included three wins over Class A opponents and a Wolverine Conference East championship after they tied for second in the league last season. Plainwell has won six straight by double digits including over Paw Paw and Otsego – the two teams that each beat the Trojans twice during last season’s 18-4 finish.

Spring Lake (20-0) – The Lakers jumped from 13-8 last season to win the Lakes 8 Activities Conference title outright and 17 games by double figures. Spring Lake was 7-15 only two seasons ago, but this winter won 10 games against teams that sit .500 or better.

Wayland (19-1) – The Wildcats split the O-K Gold with Grand Rapids Catholic Central (see above). But Wayland bounced back with two big wins last week and still should carry some confidence from an early slate of victories over Class A Grand Rapids Christian (16-4), Caledonia (14-6) and Wyoming (16-4) and then a one-point win over GRCC on Jan. 23.


Blissfield (19-1): The Royals closed the regular season with a 47-41 win last week over Tri-County Conference runner-up Britton Deerfield, also tonight’s District opponent. Blissfield split the Lenawee County Activities Association championship with Class B Brooklyn Columbia Central, which also gave Blissfield its only loss this season. It may been two months ago, but the Royals also picked up a nice win over Class D contender St. Ignace, 46-33.

Gobles (20-0) – The Tigers, MHSAA semifinalists last season – cruised through their second straight perfect regular season. Gobles won the Southwestern Athletic Conference South title, then beat North champion Decatur 51-35 in their crossover game. Gobles also added a nice one-point victory last week over Class B Otsego, runner-up in the Wolverine Conference East.

Laingsburg (20-0) – The Wolfpack have improved from 13 to 15 to 20 wins over the last three seasons, winning a Central Michigan Athletic Conference with another strong Class C contender in Pewamo-Westphalia (17-3) and a Class D hopeful in Portland St. Patrick (14-6). Laingsburg also added a nice pair of wins over Class B Durand (13-7) in the season opener and Perry (15-5) near the midpoint.

Niles Brandywine (19-1) – The Bobcats' only loss this season was to 17-win Class A Kalamazoo Central, and that came in double overtime. Brandywine won seven games over teams with at least 13 wins this winter and went 7-1 against Class A and Class B opponents. 

Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (17-3) – Arbor Prep’s list of wins this winter provide plenty of confidence the team will eclipse last season’s Quarterfinal run: 59-55 over Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 52-39 over Flint Powers Catholic, 54-39 over Detroit Country Day, to name a few. The losses were to Class A Southfield Lathrup, Marian (both mentioned above) and Ann Arbor Huron (18-2).


Bellaire (19-1) – The Eagles won the Ski Valley Conference despite splitting with rival Johannesburg-Lewiston, a Class C team that's 18-2. One win this week will give Bellaire more than 20 for the second straight season, with 10 this winter coming against teams above .500.

Frankfort (18-1) – An MHSAA quarterfinalist a year ago, Frankfort has continued its stellar play with five wins over Class B teams and four over Class C this winter – the only loss was to Class B Portland during holiday break. The Panthers finished perfect in the Northwest Conference, sweeping runner-up Maple City Glen Lake, a Class C team that sits 14-6.

Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (16-4) – The Irish, last season’s Class D champion, should be more than prepared for another run featuring some of last season’s heroes – center Averi Gamble and guard Riley Terwilliger among them – and after playing only three Class D opponents during the regular season. The losses were to Class C Carson City-Crystal (18-2) twice, Morley Stanwood (16-4) and Saginaw Nouvel (14-6) – and two Class D wins were over Gaylord St. Mary (16-4) and Big Rapids Crossroads Academy (19-1).

Pittsford (20-0) – The Wildcats finished their second straight perfect regular season as the only undefeated team in Class D. In addition to winning the Southern Central Athletic Association East title for the second straight season, Pittsford added wins against solid Class C teams Sand Creek (14-6), Manchester (17-3) and Britton Deerfield (16-4) and held opponents to fewer than 20 points in 10 victories.

St. Ignace (15-5) – The Saints are another team with a few more losses but expectations of being around at the end of the Class D tournament after winning Class D in 2013 and finishing runner-up in Class C last winter. They opened with a loss to Class A Brighton and all of their losses were to larger schools with between 12-16 wins this winter. All but four of St. Ignace’s games were against teams that finished with at least 11 wins.

PHOTO: Class A contenders Bloomfield Hills Marian and Detroit Martin Luther King met last week in a regular-season finale; Marian prevailed 50-49. (Photo courtesy of the Detroit Public School League.)

Howardsville Christian Striving to Transfer Fall Successes to Basketball Court

By Scott Hassinger
Special for

November 28, 2023

HOWARDSVILLE - There is a sign that hangs inside Howardsville Christian School's tiny gymnasium that accurately depicts the mission for the Eagles during the 2023-24 boys basketball season.

Southwest CorridorIt reads "In Jesus' name we play."

Ken Sparks and the eight players on his varsity basketball roster have challenged themselves to help one another understand what it means to give their season to  God.

"My goal is to help these boys find gratitude in playing for a greater power than themselves," said Sparks, a varsity standout himself at Howardsville from 1996-2000, member of the 1,000-point club and an honorable mention all-stater his senior year.

Nestled on the border between St. Joseph and Cass counties along Bent Road, Howardsville Christian, a Division 4 school for its sports with fewer than 80 students, has enjoyed a rich tradition of spiritual learning both in the classroom and on the court and playing fields.

The contribution of many talented athletes from several families has been instrumental in Howardsville's athletic success for years, especially this school year.

Howardsville won District titles this fall in boys soccer and girls volleyball. Now the Eagles hope to carry that momentum over to the basketball court.

With four starters returning, Sparks is looking for Howardsville’s boys team to battle for supremacy in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph League and improve on a 13-10 record from last season. The Eagles finished 7-7 in the league last winter and endured a disappointing District Semifinal loss to Marcellus. Howardsville Christian had won its District the season in 2021.

"We competed well with all the teams on our schedule and lost to some teams we shouldn't have," Sparks said. "There are eight teams in our conference, and this season we need to beat Benton Harbor Countryside to be the top team. It's been a good league for us."

Senior twin brothers Colin and Dylan Muldoon return for Howardsville, along with junior cousin Kaden Sparks, son of the head coach, and junior John Paul Rose.

The Muldoon brothers both are beginning their third year as varsity starters.

"Working together as a team is something we really want to do well. A lot of teams set a goal of winning Districts. The last two years we've fallen short of that goal. It's definitely something we want to achieve this year," Colin Muldoon said.

Dylan Muldoon echoed that sentiment.

"Our success in soccer makes us want to attain the same goals in basketball. We know we are capable of reaching those, so I think it makes us want to pull things together," Dylan Muldoon said. "There's a lot of long-distance running in soccer, but there's also a lot of quickness and turning in basketball, especially when you're guarding or driving around someone. You just have to be quick."

Eagles varsity boys basketball coach Ken Sparks, far left, is pictured by the school's trophy case with his four returning starters Colin Muldoon, Dylan Muldoon, Kaden Sparks and John Paul Rose. Kaden Sparks, another three-year starter, will be Howardsville's best shooting guard.

"Winning Districts is achievable. We have to learn to work together. I played summer ball, and the biggest takeaway is that it taught me that I have to always give 100-percent effort out there. We had a great soccer season, and It’s taught us a lot about accountability," Kaden Sparks said.

Rose will be Howardsville Christian's starting point guard. He has been a starter since his freshman year, along with Kaden Sparks.

"The team chemistry and communication we had in soccer easily transfers over to basketball. As our point guard, it's important for me to try to get the ball to other guys who have open looks," Rose said. "I want to be more aggressive defensively, push the ball up the floor more and increase my scoring."

In addition, Ken Sparks believes the physicality a majority of his team learned from soccer will be a big benefit on the basketball floor.

"You build up your physicality from playing soccer with having to always body up. Watching them play sometimes hurts me, but that's what I want them to do in basketball. It helps them to want to draw contact and be physical on the floor," Ken Sparks said.

The lack of upperclassmen on Howardsville's varsity the last couple of years gave Rose and Kaden Sparks an immediate opportunity to play as freshmen.

"The fact John Paul and Kaden had that early chance at the varsity level is really paying off now,” Ken Sparks added. “Kaden is an excellent shooter. I want him to get the confidence that I had when I was in high school. He tends to be a little more passive on the floor than I like, but he's finally getting that aggressive nature that you need offensively.”

Kaden, Colin Muldoon and Rose all averaged double-digit scoring last season, while Dylan Muldoon is the Eagles' best defensive player. The Muldoon brothers will serve as Howardsville's team captains.

"Kaden is very self-motivated to become a better basketball player. His goal is to be the best player that he can be," Ken Sparks said. "John Paul is explosive and has really refined his jump shot to where he can be a scoring threat. He sees the floor very well and can really push the ball up the floor without turning it over. We're going to see big strides from him because of his determination and drive.

"Colin is a great overall player. He's a threat from the outside and can score inside with his height as well. If we're going to be successful, he and Dylan have to bring the same drive that John Paul and Kaden bring to the court.”

"I've coached all of the guys on our team for the last three seasons except one,” Sparks added. “We talk about being well-rounded. These guys are the best academically and spiritual leaders in our school."

Howardsville Christian’s most well-known alumni is Dylan Jergens, the third-leading scorer in state history with 2,782 career points.

The boys soccer and girls volleyball teams earned District titles during the fall. (During the fall soccer season, the Muldoons, Kaden Sparks and Rose helped Howardsville win a second-straight District title. The Eagles then lost 5-0 in the Regional Semifinal to eventual Division 4 champion Muskegon Western Michigan Christian. Both Muldoons, Kaden Sparks and Rose were named to the first-team all-BCS and District soccer squads.

The Muldoons were the two main catalysts in the Eagles' soccer run, along with Lukas Krueger. Dylan Muldoon had 28 goals and nine assists, while Colin Muldoon posted 14 goals and eight assists. Krueger added 19 goals to go with 16 assists. Kaden Sparks had five goals and four assists, and Rose added three goals and three assists.

Steve Muldoon, Colin and Dylan's father and Howardsville's head boys soccer coach, sees many correlations between soccer and basketball that will bring the Eagles success in hoops this winter.

"Communication is key. A team that doesn't talk on the field/court isn't going to win. They learn how to correct and encourage one another to deal with problems without getting too negative," Steve Muldoon said. "Individually, they learn how to anticipate. There isn't much difference between anticipating a pass and stepping in front of it in soccer or basketball or making a hard run down the court/field to get open for a layup/counterattack. They learn how to react and make the correct decision under pressure. The skills needed to do it in soccer and basketball are different, but most of it is mental and that carries over."

Determination was another big factor for Howardsville's soccer success this fall.

"We beat Lansing Christian this fall in a weekend soccer tournament and they are a much bigger and physical team than us, but we managed to beat them," Colin Muldoon said. "That win gave us a lot of confidence for the remainder of the season that we could beat anyone."


The family dynamic doesn't stop with Howardsville's boys basketball team.

Senior Kyla Sparks, Ken's daughter and Kaden's older sister, is one of three cousins on the roster for a Howardsville girls team that finished 12-11 last year. All five starters are back for that Eagles team as well.

"As a team, we want to improve on last year's record. With all our starters back, we feel we have a good shot to finish at the top of both our conference and District. Most of our basketball team also played volleyball this fall, and we view us all as family," Kyla Sparks said. "Being able to play with my two cousins makes good lifelong memories."

Kyla Sparks, who averaged 12 points per game her junior year, starts with sophomore cousins Kelsie Muldoon and Kate Evans. Those three also started on the varsity volleyball team that captured its first District title since 1997.

Coincidently, the mothers of Kyla, Kelsie and Kate were all on the 1997 District champion volleyball team.

Scott HassingerScott Hassinger is a contributing sportswriter for Leader Publications and previously served as the sports editor for the Three Rivers Commercial-News from 1994-2022. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Colin Muldoon drives to the basket against his twin brother Dylan Muldoon during recent Howardsville Christian boys basketball practice. (Middle) Eagles varsity boys basketball coach Ken Sparks, far left, is pictured by the school's trophy case with his four returning starters Colin Muldoon, Dylan Muldoon, Kaden Sparks and John Paul Rose. (Below) The boys soccer and girls volleyball teams earned District titles during the fall. (Top and middle photos by Scott Hassinger. District championship photos courtesy of Howardsville Christian School.)