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Watervliet Press Box

Boys basketball ready for playoffs

The 18-3 Panther varsity boys basketball team slipped to #7 in the state rankings this week after a pair of losses to Berrien Springs and Kalamazoo Christian. Despite the losses to very good teams they are the top seed in District 79, facing the winner of Coloma and Cassopolis on Wednesday, March 8 at 7 p.m. in the Panther gym. If they don’t stumble, and they shouldn’t, the Panthers are likely to face

UP AND AWAY… Panther Wyatt Epple goes up for a layup after a steal and fast break against Coloma on Friday, Feb. 24. Coloma’s PJ Parker defends, as the Panthers went on to win 69-48. (TCR photo by John Oliphant)

Brandywine in the district championship game on Friday, March 10 in Watervliet.

The team started last week with a tough 53-50 loss to a big Kalamazoo Christian team on Tuesday in Kalamazoo then rebounded on Friday to take down Coloma, 69-51.

On Tuesday [Feb. 21] they couldn’t shut down the Christian Comets’ JJ Manion who scored 33 points, including nine three pointers and 13 points in the final quarter. The teams traded leads throughout the game and the Panthers had an edge much of the second half but Manion drained big treys from big distances to make the difference. The Comets had 12 threes in the game, compared to the Panthers with just five.

Tyson Williams led the Panthers with 18 points. Kaiden Bierhalter scored 13, while Brady Bornas and Jacob Schaefer each scored eight. Wyatt Epple scored three points.

On Friday, Feb. 24 the Panthers completed their SAC schedule with a trip to Coloma. The teams started out tight, with the Panthers leading 3-0 after 2:30 had elapsed in the game, then Wyatt Epple finally scored on two consecutive steals and fast breaks to extend their lead to 6-0 before the Comets hit a pair of free throws.

The Panthers eventually led 18-6 after one quarter then 36-21 at halftime in a well-played game. This rivalry can quickly get chippy, but there was none of that this season, and none seen in this game. The Panthers were just better this night, making lots of good passes and finishing with 16 assists, 12 steals, and a pair of big blocks early.

Coloma scoring was led by Tyrell Taylor-Owens with 21 and six different Comets scored. The Panthers’ more balanced attack was led by Williams with 18 including a trio of threes. Wyatt Epple scored 17 points with a pair of threes, Bierhalter scored 14, Bornas scored nine, Tristan Steltner scored five, and Schaefer, Owen Epple, and Royce Daugherty each scored two points.

The boys finish their regular season this week when Saugatuck comes to Watervliet on Thursday, March 2.

Girls finish regular season strong

Watervliet’s 18-4 girls varsity basketball team extended their winning streak to nine games with wins last week over Kalamazoo Hackett, 44-35 and Michigan Lutheran, 56-35. They will have played 16-7 Bloomingdale on Wednesday, March 1 and if they won that game they should be facing 16-6 Gobles

WRAPPING UP REGULAR ROUNDBALL… Panther defenders Tia Caldwell (22) and MJ Flowers (12) close in on Michigan Lutheran’s Jules Koehler during a full-court press in their game on Thursday, Feb. 23. The Panthers defeated the Titans 56-33 in their last home game this season. (TCR photo by John Oliphant)

in the district final on Friday night at Bloomingdale. The Panthers beat Gobles 48-37 in early season action when Samantha Dietz was still recovering from an ankle injury. Gobles hasn’t faced the same tough schedule as the Panthers, and on paper the Lady Panthers are favorites to win their first district title in over ten years.

Looking back on Tuesday, Feb. 21, Watervliet took on the 14-9 Hackett Catholic Prep Irish in the Panther gym, coming away with a big SAC crossover win. Hackett took the early lead as the teams started slowly, but the Panther offense exploded for 18 points in the second quarter to take a 25-15 lead into halftime. Their defense held the Irish to just eight points in the third quarter while scoring 14 to take a big 38-23 lead into the final quarter. The big loss in the game was in the second quarter when Ellie Golden turned an ankle and is likely to miss a week or maybe more.

Grace Chisek led the scoring with 14 points, MJ Flowers scored 13, and Samantha Dietz scored 10. Abby Whorton came off the bench to score five big points.

On Thursday, Feb. 23 the Michigan Lutheran Titans came to Watervliet

for their final regular season game and the Panthers controlled the ball and the pace the entire way. The teams played even in the first quarter with the Panthers taking a 14-10 lead, but the Titans had no answer for the Panther press in the second quarter which held the Titans to just two points while Watervliet scored 21 to take a 35-12 lead into halftime.

Chisek and Dietz led the scoring with 15 points each. Flowers and Lauren Laws each scored 11, and Tia Caldwell and Whorton each scored two points.


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