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Watervliet Press Box

Boys basketball wins two, loses one

The Panther varsity boys basketball team won a pair of games last week and lost just their second game of the season. They started the week with a 46-39 loss to a tough Berrien Springs team, then bounced back to beat Centreville 61-46 and to outlast Bridgman 31-28. They remain ranked #4 in D3 and near the top of the Michigan Power Ranking stats. The Bridgman win also clinched the outright

POINTS STOPPER… Wyatt Epple blocks a reverse layup attempt by Bridgman’s Teddy Ippel in Friday night’s game, Feb. 17. The Panthers won the game 31-28 and had eight blocked shots in the game. (TCR photo by John Oliphant)

SAC Lakeshore championship for the second consecutive year. The team is now 17-2 with a trip to Coloma on Friday, Feb. 24 and the finale of their regular season at home when Saugatuck visits on Friday, March 3.

On Tuesday, Feb. 14 the still-shorthanded Panthers couldn’t find their shot in the new Shamrock gym, falling behind 16-9 in the first quarter and not being able to recover against a persistent Shamrock defense. Wyatt Epple led the Panthers with 17 points, Jacob Schaefer and Tyson Williams each scored eight, and Brady Bornas scored six.

On Thursday, Feb. 16 they hosted Centreville and recovered with a big offensive game, winning 61-46. They out rebounded the Bulldogs, 33-21, and played a selfless game with lots of passing and solid defense.

The big home game on Friday night against Bridgman turned into a low-scoring game when the Bees played an extremely slow game and the Panthers had a hard time getting their plentiful open shots to fall through the basket. The Panthers effectively controlled every aspect of the game on Senior Night other than the score; out rebounding the Bees, 36-22, and blocking eight shots, including two on the Bee’s last possession by Bierhalter and Williams to seal the win.

Kaiden Bierhalter returned to the lineup and led the Panthers with 10 points. Williams and Tristan Steltner each scored six, Epple scored five, and Brady Bornas scored four.

The Panthers are headed towards districts as the likely first seed, with Brandywine holding the edge over Cassopolis for the second seed. The other teams in the district tournament, held in the Panther gym starting Monday, March 6, will be Coloma and Bridgman. The regional tournament will be held in Coloma starting March 13 and the boys have a legitimate shot to make a run through both these post-season levels.

Girls basketball wins two

The 16-4 girls varsity basketball team is on a seven-game winning streak with just two games remaining in the regular season. They have been seeded first in the District 77 tournament, playing the winner of 12-6 Bloomingdale and 7-12 Bangor on Wednesday, March 1 at Bloomingdale. Favored in that matchup, they are likely to meet 14-6 Gobles in the district final then play either Kalamazoo Christian or Schoolcraft in the opening round of regionals at Centreville starting March 7. Top-ranked Buchanan is in the other side of the regional bracket and favored to beat everyone in their path to the finals.


PANTHERS STING BEES… Grace Chisek swipes the ball away from Bridgman’s Lanie McGrory in the Friday, Feb. 17 matchup in Watervliet. Chisek took the resulting steal, one of 18 for the Panthers, for an easy layup. The Panthers won the game 43-26. (TCR photo by John Oliphant)

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Feb. 14 the team hosted Dowagiac in a rematch of an early-season win and pulled away late to secure a sweet 42-35 victory. The teams played even most of the way, with the Panthers leading 26-25 entering the final period. That’s when Grace Chisek took over, scoring nine of the Panther’s fourth-quarter 16 points to get the win. Samantha Dietz led all scorers with 16 points, and Chisek finished with 12. MJ Flowers scored eight points, while Abby Whorton scored four and Lauren Laws scored two.

The girls played the prime-time game on Friday, Feb. 17 and had a relatively easy time with Bridgman to clinch the outright SAC Lakeshore title, their third in a row. The teams played close through the first quarter before the Panthers outscored the Bees 17-2 in the second quarter to take a 24-8 lead into halftime. The Panther defense generated a whopping 18 steals and didn’t capitalize on all of them or the lead would have been much bigger. A highlight was Tia Caldwell with two steals in a row, speeding past the defense and hitting layups on both resulting breakaways.

Dietz led the scoring with 13 points, and Flowers scored 10. Chisek scored eight, Caldwell scored four, Ellie Golden and Lilly Lefor each hit one three-pointer, and Whorton scored two.

Three Panthers headed to State Wrestling Finals

Six Panthers took part in the individual regional tournaments held last weekend and three of them wrestled well enough to advance to the state finals at Ford Field starting Friday, March 3. On Saturday, Feb. 18 Riley Hess won two matches before he lost two, earning a slot in the 175-pound finals bracket and bringing home a fourth place regional medal.

On Sunday Ayana Marshall had two pins to reach her championship match and secure a spot in the parallel girls state finals, also held at Ford Field. She brought home a second place medal, while at the same time Taylor Woollett had two pins plus a 12-2 win to also reach the title match in her bracket, then finished with a second place medal as well.

Others participating over the weekend but not advancing were Luke Isbrecht, Yuria Zalcedo, and Sophie Wigent.

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