Breslin Bound: Girls Report Week 12

February 20, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Another Michigan girls basketball regular season will come to a close Saturday. But there’s still plenty to be determined as we prep for the start of the MHSAA Tournament.

A number of league titles still must be decided – some of those races are detailed below. The Detroit Public School League and Detroit Catholic League have a solid Operation Friendship doubleheader lined up as well, and a few more possible contenders next month will test themselves one more time before winning becomes a necessity to stay on the court.

Below is the final Breslin Bound girls report – powered by MI Student Aid – of the regular season. Next week we’ll switch things up to look at some of the most intriguing Districts from all four classes.

Week in Review

The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results: 

1. Saginaw Heritage 36, Detroit Country Day 35 – Heritage already was a favorite for the Class A title despite suffering its first loss to Midland Dow two weeks ago; handing Class B contender Country Day its first loss made the Hawks even stronger contenders.

2. Royal Oak Shrine 52, Waterford Our Lady 49 – Shrine had fallen to Our Lady by 20 last month, but most memorable was this Catholic League C-D Final win reportedly gave the Knights their first league title in 23 years. 

3. Wayne Memorial 55, Northville 50 (OT) – The Zebras earned a birth in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association Kensington championship game by handing KLAA South champ Northville its first loss since opening night, Nov. 29.

4. Grass Lake 59, Manchester 55 – With this win, Grass Lake clinched the Cascades Conference title outright, reportedly its first league championship in more than a decade.

5. Marquette 43, Houghton 40 – Ten days after falling to Houghton in a matchup of arguably the best in the Upper Peninsula, the two-loss Redettes handed the Gremlins their first defeat in the rematch.

Watch List

With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each class making sparks: 


Detroit Martin Luther King (18-1) – The Crusaders’ latest run to the Detroit Public School League title saw only Detroit Renaissance (nine) keep a game within 20 points. King also handed Hartland its only loss and has wins over Muskegon Mona Shores and Clarkston, with its only defeat to Country Day at the end of December.

Farmington Hills Mercy (17-2) – The Marlins have run off 13 straight wins since suffering their two losses before Christmas. They avenged that second loss, by 15 to Dearborn Divine Child, with a 15-point win over the Falcons. Mercy beat rival Bloomfield Hills Marian in last week’s Catholic League A-B Final after falling to Marian by 19 in last season’s title decider.


Birch Run (15-3) – The Panthers have won eight straight in addition to handing rival Frankenmuth its first league loss in more than 100 Tri-Valley Conference East games two weeks ago. The two losses were by a point to the Eagles and three to Hemlock in a league crossover – and with three more wins they would equal last year’s 18-4 finish.

Croswell-Lexington (15-3) – The Pioneers clinched their fifth straight Blue Water Area Conference title, and with two more wins this week can finish a second straight perfect conference run. The losses came to Class A Port Huron Northern and Lapeer and on opening night to now 17-win Marine City.


Pewamo-Westphalia (16-2) – The Pirates trail leader Bath by a win in the Central Michigan Athletic Conference after falling twice to the Bees, but did finish last week with a win over one-time Class C No. 1 Laingsburg. P-W also owns an early win over Ithaca, in Class B now but a C semifinalist a year ago.

Saginaw Valley Lutheran (15-4) – The Chargers opened 3-3 with three straight losses to end December, and then fell to TVC West rival Ithaca in mid-January. But they are on a nine-win run and avenged that loss to the Yellowjackets with a 39-35 win Friday. Valley Lutheran finished only 9-12 a year ago.


Crystal Falls Forest Park (16-3) – The Trojans will play Bark River-Harris on Thursday for the Skyline Central Conference West title (outright or shared depending on how the Broncos do with Powers North Central on Monday). Forest Park is 14-1 since dropping two games over the first two weeks, and avenged both of those losses against the Jets and Kingsford.

Pittsford (18-0) – The reigning Class D champion has won 45 straight and rarely has been challenged this season, with its closest wins by 12 over Manchester and 18 over Grass Lake – both Class C teams. The Wildcats have held opponents to fewer than 20 points nine times following an experienced group of leaders hoping to graduate with a repeat.

Can't-Miss Contests

Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up: 

Thursday – Detroit Martin Luther King (18-1) at Farmington Hills Mercy (17-2) – The headlining Operation Friendship game is one of the biggest in Class A this regular season (see why above).

Thursday – Traverse City St. Francis (16-1) at Gaylord St. Mary (17-1) – This meeting of league leaders will be a nice test for both as they go separate ways (St. Francis to Class C, St. Mary to Class D) for the postseason.

Thursday – KLAA championship game – Wayne Memorial (14-3), Novi (14-4), Howell (16-2) and Hartland (17-1) play Monday to determine which will meet in the league tournament finale. 

Thursday – Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (14-3) at Ida (16-2) – This is another great test as well, as the Class C Kestrels and Class B Bluestreaks look forward to Districts.

Friday – Saginaw Valley League final – Flint Carman-Ainsworth (17-2), champion of the SVL South, will face either Heritage (17-1) or Dow (16-2) from the North.

PHOTO: Greenville, here against Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills, leads the Ottawa-Kent Conference White heading into this final week. (Click for more from

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.)