03-08-2018 Tri-City Area Sports

HONORABLE, CLASS… Ten inductees into Watervliet High School’s inaugural Hall of Fame class were honored Thursday, March 1, 2018. Pictured (from the left) are: Seated – former coach Gerald Barchett, former coach Ron Farac, Jerry Bednarowski accepting for his brother former coach Eugene Bednarowski, Kim Gear, and Jason Forrester; Standing – Watervliet High School Athletic Director Ken Dietz, Tom Hutchinson, Rick Sprague, Dan Hutchinson, Mike Hutchins and Bob Hutchins, nephews of recipient Richie Morlock, and Don Finnefrock. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)


An honorable class receives a classy honor

Ten inductees into the inaugural class of Watervliet’s Hall of Fame were honored Thursday, March 1 in front of cheering fans, a proud athletic director, and family and friends.

The Watervliet Hall of Fame was conceived by WHS athletic director Ken Dietz. His efforts were recognized Thursday as the school inducted 10 members into the Hall of Fame Class of 2018. Superintendent Kevin Schooley remarked, “This was not a Kevin Schooley project. This was not a Board of Education project. This was a Ken Dietz project. It’s remarkable.”

Ten former athletes and coaches were selected by committee to join the first ever Hall of Fame class. Thursday, the group gathered at the Fairfield Inn in Watervliet for fellowship, dinner, and comments by Dietz, who thanked his family and the school district, including his assistant Nancy Scowcroft, for their support in making the Hall of Fame a reality.

The members of the Class of 2018 include: Gerald Barchett, Eugene Bednarowski, Ron Farac, Don Finnefrock, Richie Morlock, Rick Sprague, Tom Hutchinson, Dan Hutchinson, Jason Forrester, and Kim Gear.

Sprague who currently lives in Bella Vista, Arkansas traveled back home to Watervliet specifically for the ceremony. He commented, “When Ken called me, I was astonished that I was nominated in this group.  I told Ken I felt really humbled to be honored like this. This means a lot to me.”

Sprague, a 1965 graduate of the school, was the first 1,000-yard rusher for Watervliet. He was a member of the undefeated 1964 football team, the first in school history to accomplish that feat.

Ron Farac, longtime coach at Watervliet, reminisced about his time at the school. He coached varsity sports for 42 years as a Panther, including 37 years as the track coach. Looking around the room at the honorees and their families, he remarked, “It’s great. A lot of smiling faces.” When asked how he felt about his nomination and subsequent induction, Farac said, “It’s very humbling.  It’s a nice thing Ken Dietz has done.”

Following dinner, the group traveled to the high school for the formal ceremony during half-time of the boys’ varsity basketball game against Lawton.

Chairs were lined up along the gym floor for the honorees. Their names were announced, Dietz handed them a plaque and shook their hands, and the crowd clapped.

Members of the varsity basketball squad shook the hands of the former athletes, acknowledging their legacies and cementing that shared Panther Pride. Permanent plaques were placed along the corridor outside the gymnasium and will remain in the maroon ribbon near the top of the wall. Future Hall of Fame classes will be added as well.

But there was something more in the air. It was a sense of respect. Panther fans who may never have known Don Finnefrock, a 1951 WHS graduate who scored 34 touchdowns during his football career, paid tribute to him and the other members of the class. There was something unmistakably humbling about seeing these great coaches and players being remembered for their talents on and off the field.

Perhaps the word humbling describes the event to a tee. It was humbling for the inductees, who certainly never expected to be honored by their high school, for some, 60 years after they graduated.  It was humbling to sit in the stands and see those former Panthers be honored for their commitment to athletics. It was humbling for the families of the inductees to watch as their loved one was received with open arms by the community. It was humbling for Dietz’s dream to become a new reality.

And it was humbling to think of the hours, days, and years each one of the inductees spent in bettering themselves on the field and court and track to better the teams on which they played.

This is another example of when sports threads its way through a community to celebrate its own. It’s another example of creating unity and celebrating the richness of a school’s athletic history.

In the following weeks, the Press Box column will feature stories about each new member of the Hall of Fame Class of 2018.  You’ll learn about Dan Hutchinson, the first Berrien County Athlete of the Year to hail from Watervliet. You’ll read about Kim Gear, the youngest and first female inductee; Gear is a 2005 graduate and the first Watervliet female athlete to win Athlete of the Year honors from the Herald-Palladium. You’ll hear from Geno Bednarowski’s brother Jerry, who accepted the award on behalf of the longtime coach who passed away May 22, 1985. All 10 winners will be profiled in the Press Box pages. Be sure to pick up your copy as we share the pride of the Panthers! Congratulations, Class of 2018 Hall of Fame members!

District basketball begins for the boys

Boys’ district basketball kicked off Monday, March 5 as Hartford and Watervliet took to the court.

In Class B action, Coloma received a first-round bye. They faced Benton Harbor Wednesday, March 7 at host Berrien Springs.

In Class C district tournament play, Hartford took on New Buffalo on the road and won 67-58.

Watervliet tangled with Brandywine at home and lost a heart-breaker of a game in overtime 56-51.

Hartford faced Brandywine in the semi-final game Wednesday, March 7 at Watervliet.

Complete district results were not available at press time. Results will be included in next week’s Press Box column.

Girls’ hoops fall short of district championships

Girls’ varsity basketball squads from Coloma, Hartford, and Watervliet all fell short of achieving district championship titles and ended their seasons last week.

In Class D district action, Grace Christian lost 57-7 to host Lawrence. The Lady Patriots finished their season 1-10 in the BCS conference.

OUT OF REACH… Hartford’s Aaron Sinclair positions himself for a shot against a host of Bangor Vikings on Tuesday, Feb. 27. The Indians topped the visiting Vikings 74-55. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)


Coloma earned a first-round bye in their Class B district tournament run.  On Wednesday, February 28, the Lady Comets faced host Niles and were outpaced 43-31. Coloma finished in the runner-up position in the Southwestern Athletic Conference – Lakeshore Division. The team was 9-3 in the conference. Overall, the team was 13-8 this season.

Watervliet started their title run Monday, February 26 at home against New Buffalo.

It took a bit for the Panther team to settle in, but once they did, Watervliet took off like a rocket. The squad scored 16 first-period points, leading the game 16-14 at the end of eight minutes. Despite trailing by six points early on, Watervliet established themselves against the Lady Bison defense.

Watervliet built on their lead in the second period, adding 20 points to their total. The Panther defense shut down New Buffalo with tight pressure and outstanding rebounding.  The Bison added eight points and trailed 36-22 at the half.

In the third period, both squads appeared to be a step slower, with Watervliet outscoring New Buffalo 7-5 and adding to Panther margin of victory.

The fourth period played out in the same vein with Watervliet putting points on the board. The Lady Panthers earned the first-round victory over New Buffalo 55-35.

Ariana Rowe led Watervliet with 19 points; she also had nine rebounds.  Elaine Koshar put her best effort forward; she scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

Jaelyn Pitre hit three shots from beyond the arc for nine points.

Kara Liles dropped four points and picked up five rebounds.  Celina Klimkiewicz tallied four points and stole the ball three times.

Zoe Smith scored three points and notched five steals. Vicky Smith netted two points and had two steals.  Mikalah Clay scored one point and finished the game with two steals and two rebounds.

With the win in hand, Watervliet moved on to semi-final action at Brandywine Wednesday, February 28.  It would be the Panthers’ final game of the season, as they lost 47-36 to the Bobcats.

Hartford also participated in Class C district action at Brandywine.  The Indians received a first-round bye and faced Cassopolis in the semi-final game Wednesday, February 28.

The Indians were without one of their leading scorers, who, along with two teammates were not dressed for the game after violating the school’s student-athlete code of conduct, and they started the game a bit off-balanced.

Hartford’s game in the paint was not crisp and the squad missed some relatively easy shots they have nailed all season. Perhaps it was nerves; perhaps it just wasn’t their time to shine, but no matter. Hartford pulled off the 39-37 win and the fourth quarter made the difference.

Cass and Hartford ended the first period knotted up with 10 points each. In the second period, Hartford outscored Cass 12-8 to take a 22-18 lead at intermission.

But, Cassopolis rebounded – literally and figuratively – in the third period to tie the game at 26-26 heading into the final eight minutes of play.

It took everything the Indians had to eke out the 39-37 last quarter victory.

AJ Jackson led Hartford with another double-double this season. She scored 18 points and had 10 rebounds.  Jessica Cortes had six points.  Nautica Covington and Mary Pultz, both freshmen, scored four points each for the Indians.

Wednesday’s effort was not Hartford’s crispest, most precise outing of the season. However, it was enough to get the Indians into the district championship title game Friday, March 2.

With a clean slate and another 32 minutes to play ball, Hartford hit the court and battled Brandywine.

A slow first and fourth period spelled doom for the Indians. They trailed 17-9 after the first quarter and 36-21 at the half.

The Indians bounced out of the locker room at halftime with extra pep in their step. They played their best quarter as they scored 16 points in the third.  However, Brandywine matched Hartford point-for-point and maintained a 52 -34 lead after the third.

The Indians scored seven points in the final period and just could not stop the Bobcat train as it rolled to the district championship title. Hartford closed out their season with the 64-44 loss.

Kudos to AJ Jackson, though. In her final game as an Indian, she recorded 21 points, almost half of Hartford’s total.  She also contributed seven rebounds.

Cora Wesaw scored eight points and grabbed seven boards.  Jessica Cortes netted six points and stole the ball three times.  Nautica Covington scored six points.

Hartford ended their season with an 18-4 overall record.  They had a heck of a run!

STANDING TALL… Members of Hartford’s competitive cheer team show off their skills last Tuesday during half-time of the boys’ varsity basketball game. The cheer team delighted the crowd with their third round performance, which they performed at regional competition the previous weekend. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)


Coloma’s Smith captures third place at MHSAA Wrestling Finals

Coloma senior Jamane Smith Jr. wrestled his way to a third-place finish at the MHSAA Division 3 state wrestling finals Saturday, March 3.

Smith, who entered the state finals with an undefeated record, won his first two matches in the 189 lb. weight class. He defeated Almont’s Austin Battani by technical fall and Peyton Kobel by a 4-3 decision.

Smith fell in the semi-finals match to Birch Run’s Brockton Cook. Following that match, Smith took on Dundee’s Kyle Motylinski and won the 7-2 decision. With that victory, Smith moved on to the third-place match and earned a 5-1 win over White Hall’s Allen Powers.

Smith finishes the season with a 48-1 record along with the third-place state finish.

Also, in Division 3 state competition was sophomore Cole Alsup.  Alsup won his first match in the 285 lb. weight class. He topped Ovid Elsey’s Zachary Morris in sudden victory 6-5. Alsup then lost his next two matches to finish the state competition with a 1-2 record and 45-12 overall.

Ian Ishmael, a sophomore wrestling in the 135 lb. weight class, and senior Cody Reese, who fought in the 140 lb. weight class, also participated in the state finals. Both grapplers went 0-2 at state. Ishmael finishes the season with a 41-12 record, while Reese ends the year going 36-8.

Watervliet sent two wrestlers to the Division 4 state finals.  Trever Pelton, a sophomore, lost his first match of the day in the 103 lb. weight class. He then topped Bad Axe’s Clark Wehner by pin at 0:53. Pelton then lost his next match to end his state title run with a 1-2 record. Pelton posted a 41-7 overall record.

Watervliet was represented by Matt Melcher in the 215 lb. weight class.   Melcher lost his first match but came back to win a 5-0 victory in his second.  Melcher lost his third match of the day, ending his state run with a 1-2 record. Melcher was 42-10 overall this season.

Former WHS graduate fifth in nation; competing in NCAA Wrestling Finals

Brock Thumm, a graduate of Watervliet High School, will compete in the NCAA Division II wrestling finals March 9 and 10 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Thumm, a junior wrestling for Chadron State College, competed at the NCAA wrestling regional in February and finished second in the 141 lb. weight class.   Thumm topped Austin Solan 3-2 in an overtime quarterfinals match.   The former Panther then defeated Brandon Ball of Fort Hays University by a 2-1 score in the semi-finals.

Thumm lost 8-4 to California Baptist University’s Andrew Schulte but had clinched a spot in the finals.

Thumm will face Isaiah Royal of Newberry (SC) College. Thumm is 20-8 this season, while Royal holds a 22-13 record.

In the final Basford ranking of collegiate wrestlers for the season, Thumm was ranked fifth in the nation.

Good luck, Brock!

Panthers pounce all over Lawton in 64-43 victory

The Watervliet Panthers pounced to an early lead and never looked back Thursday, March 1. The squad welcomed Lawton and celebrated the induction of 10 former coaches and athletes into the school’s inaugural Hall of Fame class.

The Panthers led 17-6 after the first period courtesy of spot-on shooting and diligent defense. The Panthers shot down Lawton’s attempts at scoring and pressured their opponents into easy turnovers.

DOWN LOW TOBAR… Watervliet’s Sheldon Tobar posts down low as he looks to the basket Thursday evening in the Panthers’ game against Lawton. Watervliet not only won the game 64-43 but celebrated the induction of 10 former athletes and coaches into their Hall of Fame. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)


In the second period, Watervliet scored 15 points and held Lawton to 10. At intermission, Watervliet led 32-16.

The Panthers overpowered Lawton 17-7 in the third period to increase their lead.  With plenty of help off the bench, Watervliet continued hitting baskets through the fourth period although they were outscored 20-15.

With the 64-43 victory in the bucket, Watervliet ended their regular season 9-6 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference – Lakeshore Division. They recorded an 11-9 overall record.

Meader and Hosbein just miss state titles in bowling

Lainey Meader and Morgan Hosbein headed into the Division 3 individual state bowling finals at Northway Lanes in Battle Creek Saturday, March 3 looking to pick up a title or two.

The Comet duo finished just short of making the top eight.

Meader, a junior ranked seventh, rolled games of 149 and 178 but lost to Lynsey Blonshine of Stanton Central Montcalm, who scored 332 points to move on in the state competition.

Hosbein, a sophomore, was seeded 15th. She rolled a 367 but fell to Ishpeming’s Megan Wilkins, a junior, who rolled a 401.

Both young ladies represented Coloma well!

Coloma hoops improves to 18-2 as Goodline scores 37

Zach Goodline turned on the magic for Coloma as he led the Comets to an 86-79 victory over Schoolcraft Thursday, March 1.

Coloma led 15-14 after the first period. The Comets then scored 20 points in the second period to take a 35-33 lead at the half.

It was a strong third period by the Comets that gave them some breathing room… which they almost squandered in the fourth period.

Coloma chipped in 26 points in the third period and held Schoolcraft to 13 points. After three periods, Coloma held a 61-46 lead.

Schoolcraft charged back in the fourth period and almost stole the game from the Comets.  Schoolcraft poured in 33 points and tightened up their defense to swing the game. Coloma added 25 points, enough to keep the win in their column.

Goodline’s 37 points led Coloma, including 15 of 17 points from the charity stripe.  Phillip Caldwell sank three 3-pointers to add to his 15-point total.  Levi Wilkens had his best game lately with 10 points.  Chris Brown and Tevon Blazier scored six points each.  Michael Dancer and Willie Donald tallied four points each.  Adam Hearn and Robbie Schroeder scored two points each.

The Comets shot 23 of 27 from the free throw line (85%).

Indians charge over Vikings 74-55

JUST OUT OF REACH… Coloma’s Morgan Wagner attempts a layup last Wednesday night in Class B district semi-final action against host Niles. The Comets received a first round bye but subsequently lost to Niles 43-31. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)


The Hartford Indians won their final regular season game with a 74-55 victory over a visiting Bangor squad.

Hartford dominated the game from the get-go. The Indians scored 21 points in the first period and held Bangor to just 11.

In the second period, Hartford continued making easy shots, suffering little to no pressure from the Bangor defense.  Hartford led 43-25 at halftime.

Bangor bounded out of the gate following halftime for 16 points. It would be the only period of the game the Vikings outscored the Indians, 16-14.

Hartford put up 19 points in the fourth period to win the game 74-55.

William Martinez led the Indians with 14 points.  Trey Ackerman, Buddy Earls, and Garrod Johnson chipped in 13 points apiece.

Lace up to shamrock third annual St. Patrick’s Day 5K event in Coloma

The third annual St. Patrick’s 5K walk and run will kick off from the Coloma Township Hall Saturday, March 17.  Race time begins at 9:00 a.m., so don your green, and shamrock your way to the start line.

In conjunction with the Southwest Michigan RACERS, proceeds from the event will benefit Paws with a Cause and Hope Resources.

This event, which begins and ends at the township hall, can either be chip timed or not timed, it’s up to the participant! If you participate in the chip timed event, the registration fee is $25 through March 14. For the untimed 5K, the fee is $10 through March 14.

Fees increase by $5 on race day.

Walkers and runners participating in the chipped timing event will be eligible for overall awards and age group awards.

Go online to www.runsignup.com to get registered today!

Twice as nice as Harvick captures second consecutive Monster Energy Cup victory

Kevin Harvick dominated Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube in stunning fashion. The Ford driver cruised around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway track with ease and drove his way straight onto Victory Lane.

The third race in the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series featured 267 laps, and it was Harvick that turned in the best performance.

He led 214 laps, won stages one and two, and earned his 39th NASCAR victory.  He had a pretty good start to the day; he began the race in the number two position.

After turning in a masterful driving performance, the driver picked up his second consecutive win this season in only three races.

Kyle Busch brought home runner-up honors. He led 10 laps en route to a second place finish.

Kyle Larson finished in third place.

Martin Truex Jr., last year’s winner at the Vegas track, finished fourth. He led six laps during the event.

Pole sitter Ryan Blaney rounded out the top five. He led one lap.

Nine drivers finished on the lead lap. The race featured four caution periods for 29 laps, and there were 11 lead changes.

Drivers that didn’t finish in the top five but led laps include Joey Logano (25) and Michael McDowell (11).

It’s early in the season, but Harvick leads the driver standings. In three races, he’s won two trophies and has two top five finishes. At Daytona, Harvick did not finish the race due to an accident.

Logano is second overall with one top five and three top 10 finishes.

Ryan Blaney trails behind Logano with one top five and two top 10s.

Up next is Sunday’s Ticket Guardian 500 at Phoenix. In the spring race last year, Ryan Newman brought the checkered flag home.  In 2018 Newman has one top 10 finish. Can he power to the front of the line on Sunday or will Harvick make it three in a row? Check back to find out!

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