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Watervliet Press Box

Girls win District 77 Championship

The Panther girls varsity basketball team won the District 77 title with a big 44-22 win over the Gobles Tigers on Friday, March 3. They will have faced Kalamazoo Christian on Tuesday, March 7 in Centreville and the Regional finals are Thursday night, March 8.

The Lady Panthers had beaten the Tigers, 48-37 back in December but were without first team all-state star Samantha Dietz. This time, the Tiger’s plan was to slow down the game and along with it the high-flying Panther offense. It partially worked.

TEAM WORK… #12 MJ Flowers taps the ball away from Gobles’ Deanna Wood and into #4 Samantha Dietz’ hands while Tia Caldwell blocks the lane. The Panthers won the game, 44-22, on March 3 and with it their first district title since 2006. Their defense surrendered just 36 points in the District 77 tournament while scoring 109. (TCR photo by John Oliphant)

Gobles took the opening tip and killed a full minute dribbling around and passing before finding a small opening in the Panthers’ defense and missing a point-blank shot. The Tigers dribbled around for bit longer before Grace Chisek stole the ball from their point guard and barely missed a layup at the other end. The Panthers stole the ball on the Tigers way back down the court and then missed another close shot. Then another Panther steal and missed layup. Finally, on the fourth consecutive steal MJ Flowers hit a short jumper for the game’s first points and a lead they would hold all night.

On defense the Tigers focused on shutting down the inside game, leaving Panthers wide open outside the arc. Lilly Lefor took advantage, hitting a three to go up 5-0 and then hitting two more long shots later in the game. Meanwhile the persistent Panther defense continued to stifle the Tigers, who eventually got another shot off to make the score 6-2. The rest of the first quarter was good defense with the Panthers leading 8-2 at the end.

The two defenses continued to deny each other, with the Tigers taking 18 challenged shots in the first half and sinking just two. Meanwhile the Panthers were firing from long range and finding some success along with a few inside baskets.

The second half began with Lefor blocking a Gobles’ shot and Dietz making a layup on the transition as the Panthers went on to score 16 and break the game open, leading 31-16 headed into the fourth quarter. The Panther defense had 12 steals and four blocks on the night, along with 16 assists on offense. MJ Flowers led the way with 20 points and three treys. Dietz scored 10 points, Lefor scored eight with a pair of threes, Chisek scored four, and Tia Caldwell scored two.

A CAREER PERFORMANCE… Watervliet’s Grace Chisek goes for a layup Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023 while Bloomingdale’s Gracie Hutchins makes a good defensive effort. Chisek scored and then went on to notch 27 points in the district tournament game, including six three-pointers. The Panthers defeated Bloomingdale 65-14 and advanced to the district championship. (TCR photo by John Oliphant)

On Tuesday, Feb. 28 the Panthers opened their postseason with a game against host Bloomingdale and won 65-14. The Cardinals didn’t have much of a chance as the Panthers jumped to a 30-3 lead in the first quarter. Chisek hit four treys in the quarter and Dietz was unstoppable inside with five baskets in the quarter. Bloomingdale came into the game having won ten straight, but the Panthers were on fire both offensively and on defense as they shut down the Cardinal’s top scorers.

Chisek led the scoring with a career-high 27 points and six threes. Dietz finished with 20 points, and Flowers scored 15 points with a pair of threes. Lauren Laws added three points.

The district title is their first since 2006. They also previously won district titles in 2005 and 2003.

Taylor Woollett earns All-State honors

Panther wrestler Taylor Woollett went to Ford Field last weekend for the first MHSAA girls wrestling finals and left with an 8th place medal, becoming the first Watervliet girl to earn All-State wrestling honors. Woollett started the meet on Friday with an 11-7 win and then faced the eventual champion in Mason’s Cecilia Williams and getting pinned. Woollett had to win one more match on Friday to survive to Saturday, and succeeded with an 8-0 win. She lost both matches on Saturday to finish in 8th place but earned a medal and a spot on the podium.

Also on Friday, Riley Hess lost his first match to the eventual 3rd place finisher, won his second match, then lost a close one 5-4 to end his tournament. Ayana Marshall started her day with a pin then lost a pair of matches to also bow out on Friday. Congratulations to all three wrestlers on their trips to the finals. Hopefully they make it back next year along with a few other Panthers who nearly made it this season.

Boys basketball beats Saugatuck

The Panther boys varsity basketball team had a single game last week, taking on Saugatuck at home and coming away with a 65-38 victory. They took a 21-2 lead in the first quarter and led 36-11 at halftime, cruising the rest of the way. Every Panther scored in the game and all but one Trailblazer scored as well.

Brady Bornas and Kaiden Bierhalter each scored 11. Tyson Williams and Jacob Schaefer each scored eight. Wyatt Epple and Royce Daugherty each scored six, Alex Hicks scored five, Owen Epple scored four, Tristan Steltner and Landin Fuller each scored three.

The team will have opened their postseason on Wednesday this week and are likely to play again Friday night, March 10 to defend their 2022 district title in the Panther gym. Parking will be at a premium due to the musical in the auditorium so carpooling is recommended.


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