Winter sports tipoff pushed back—again
For the third week in a row we are writing about the same thing - another delay in the start of contact winter sports seasons. At press time we are looking at a Feb. 21 start for basketball and wrestling with the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) lobbying the governor’s office hard for a chance to get started early.
Michigan remains one of the few states still postponing winter sports, and with Illinois starting up high risk sports on Feb. 1 Michigan is the only holdout in the Midwest. This is a fluid situation and could change by the time this week’s Record is on the newsstands and in mailboxes.
Michigan’s COVID numbers remain on the decline and any connection between virus transmission and high school sports is weak, at best. However, the governor’s office and the state health department don’t want to budge. Sadly it’s not looking good for winter contact sports.
Panther basketball and wrestling teams working out
The existing safety rules allow all the winter sports teams to have regular practices and the Watervliet teams are working hard and getting ready. These same rules prohibit contact between athletes however, preventing the wrestlers from doing any wrestling and also preventing the basketball teams from scrimmaging or practicing with both offense and defense on the court at the same time.
Meanwhile, the Press Box briefly visited a basketball practice session last week and saw the teams working on skills, offense, and conditioning. Afterwards, girls coach Ken Dietz talked about his team this season and was excited for the young talent moving into the high school this year and equally happy about the quantity of athletes participating in the middle school sports programs. Our teams are full. Part of that success can be attributed to providing multiple teams at each level of middle school winter sports, and part of it is that we’ve had some good coaches at the lower levels.
As for the girls varsity team, they graduated just two seniors last year and will have just two more this season, Keyona Klimkiewicz and Adriyanna Winters. Adriyanna was a talented role player and ball handler last season and will get plenty of playing time again this year. Keynona is seeing her first varsity experience.
The juniors are led by Madison Hagood-Saunders in her third year on the varsity. Madison will take on an expanded role this season and will be on the court playing a major role as a two guard. Addison Riley returns and Alexa Warren will join the varsity this season.
The team is led by sophomore Samantha Dietz, who blew away the area in multiple stat categories last year. Lilly Lefor and Madison (MJ) Flowers also return. Lilly spent time on both the JV and varsity squads last season, and MJ was the team’s point guard and assist leader as a freshman last year. Alysse Angelo will make her varsity debut this season.
The freshmen are Grace Chisek, Ellie Golden, and Abigale Whorton. The talented trio has plenty of experience in travel ball and is working to build a rapport with the other players at the varsity level. They will all see plenty of playing time once the games get started, being hopeful that happens.
This team isn’t a favorite for a title in a tough conference but despite that they will be playing exciting basketball and will get plenty of wins once the season begins. They should surprise a few of the top area teams.
Next week we will take a look at the boys team followed by a pre-season look at the wrestling team.