Watervliet High School’s varsity boys basketball team was trailing Fennville on the road Feb. 8 when senior shooting guard Andrew Chisek reached 1,000 career points. His milestone was acknowledged during the contest, but Chisek reduced the cheering to a low-frequency buzz as he went back to work — like that of the faint mechanical hum from furnaces and lights bouncing around the walls of an empty gymnasium.
Gym rats know that sound.
The Panthers (15-3) ended up losing that night, a rarity this season for coach Dan Hoff’s re-energized program, which shared the Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore title. Watervliet won just nine games combined during Chisek’s first two seasons. The Panthers won 13 games during last year’s COVID-shortened slate and have a shot at 16 this winter with one regular-season game remaining.
Like all the hours spent with a shooting machine and no one there to witness it, Chisek wasn’t concerned about individual praise.
“I’ve just been focusing on the next game, but I’m sure it will hit me after the season how crazy that is,” Chisek said. “I just want to play more and more games. I haven’t really focused on my achievements as much as team achievements. It’s kind of a next-game mentality. It’s an effort thing. I’m hoping to win a District championship.”
Hoff, who took over in 2019-20, explained how Chisek’s example set the tone for a rebuilding process at Watervliet.
“The biggest adjustment for Andrew was he began playing with players who were capable of scoring like he was,” Hoff said. “He did a wonderful job of getting them more involved in the scoring part of the game. Previous to that he didn’t have to and shouldn’t have because he was such an important scorer for the team.”
Chisek’s production this season includes 13.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He’s the third 1,000-point scorer on the boys side in Watervliet history, joining the likes of Kevin Bryce (1,114 points in 2009), Dan Hutchinson (1,016 points in 1983) and Jason Forrester (1,158 points in 1992).
“To Andrew’s credit and the type of person he is, it appeared to me that he just wanted to help the team try to win the game (against Fennville),” Hoff added. “It was a brief moment of recognition, but his focus was immediately back on what we can do to be successful. The team approach of these guys has been remarkable. With all of my years of coaching I’ve had, I’ve been amazingly impressed with how these guys have buried their egos, buried their personal goals and really focused on what we can do every day to get better.
“When you’re working to start a new program like we have in my first three years, to have one of your best players be so dedicated to improving himself while having other kids join him, has been so instrumental in our progress.”
The student-athletes who do the extra work when nobody’s around are often the ones that require the least attention.
Samantha Dietz, a junior forward for the Watervliet girls squad, knew she was approaching the same feat this past Saturday after leading the team in scoring the last three seasons, needing eight points to join the exclusive club. After she knocked down a free throw in the second quarter at Paw Paw, the public address announcer made note of the accomplishment and Dietz admitted the pause in action rattled her. She missed the second free throw and was happy the moment had passed so she and the Panthers could get back to the task at hand. They closed out the game for a 54-37 win — their 18th of the year.
“It was cool that it happened,” she said. “I wasn’t really sure what to expect, I guess. It was good to get it out of the way before tournament time. Now I can just focus on that. What has helped the most is having those rough years. It was a struggle my freshman year. It helped to go through that. We all play all the sports we can, and we’ve all been together and work hard.”
Her father, Watervliet athletic director and varsity girls coach Ken Dietz, has had the best seat in the house during this journey. In an undoubtedly proud dad moment, he didn’t stray from his role of coach. The two can look back on the memory as father and daughter later.
“It was just business,” said Ken Dietz, whose team is preparing for a Division 3 District Semifinal matchup Wednesday with Cassopolis. “I fist bumped her after the game and told her ‘Congratulations,’ but we keep it separate. We just keep it that way. It has worked that way. It sounds simple. It’s fun and it’s not stressful at all. I don’t think I treat her any different than anyone else on the team. I’m one of the blessed ones.
“I’m just so proud of her work ethic. If your best player doesn’t work hard every day in practice and doesn’t work hard in the game, it’s tough to get everybody to work hard. In high school, if you work harder than everybody, you’re going to be a better-than-average player. Her work ethic is impressive, and it has created a standard for our kids. She’s a good teammate. When she’s not playing, she’s cheering for the other kids. That’s infectious to everybody else.
Dietz is averaging 17.4 points and 13.3 rebounds per game this year, and she’s the sixth girls basketball player at Watervliet to eclipse 1,000 career points. She joins Nicole Winter (1,086 points in 2013), Rachel Sheffer (1,490 points in 2009), Kim Gear (1,062 points in 2005), Lisa Ashton (1,299 points in 1997) and Kim Carney (1,057 points in 1981) on the esteemed school list of all-time scorers.
But after experiencing only five wins as a freshman in 2019-20, it is how the program has made such a stunning turnaround that is most impressive.
“It wasn’t too long ago that we couldn’t get the ball across half court,” Ken Dietz said. “We played Schoolcraft four years ago when I first took over and we could not get the ball across half court in the first half. It was just ugly. So, we have come a long way in a few years. I’ve told the girls, ‘You’ve built this place, so live in it, enjoy it and have fun. You deserve to be here.’”
Putting his AD hat back on, Ken Dietz is thrilled to see where the school is as a whole.
“We’re headed in the right direction,” Ken Dietz said of Watervliet athletics. “One, we have great kids representing our school right now. Andrew and Sam are obviously two of those. There is nobody who has shot more baskets and put more time into boys basketball than Andrew the last few years. He has set that standard. They are leaders because they work hard and do the right things.”
Wes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and ESPNChicago.com, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of JoeInsider.com. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Samantha Dietz and Andrew Chisek both have reached 1,000 career points for Watervliet this season. (Middle) Chisek pulls up for a jumper; he’s averaging 13.4 points per game this season. (Below) Dietz gets a shot up over a pair of Gobles defenders. (Photos courtesy of the Watervliet athletic department.)
The St. Ignace girls basketball teams is off to a 2-0 start – and great starts and finishes certainly have been the norm over the last 25 seasons under the leadership of head coach Dorene Ingalls and her assistant, and husband, Doug.
Tuesday’s season-opening win over Brimley made Dorene Ingalls 500-94 beginning her 25th season guiding the program – now 501-94 after Thursday’s 63-27 victory over Boyne City. She entered this season 16th on the state list for most girls basketball coaching victories, and seventh among active coaches.
For all 501 wins, Doug Ingalls has been by her side as an assistant within the program – while also serving as boys varsity basketball coach from 1992-2008, 2011-16 and again currently in the fifth season of his latest tenure. His Saints also have opened 2-0, and he has a 355-175 record leading the boys program.
The Ingalls have led the girls program to five MHSAA Finals championships, most recently in Class D in 2015, and four runner-up finishes, most recently in Division 4 in 2019.
Dorene Ingalls received the MHSAA Women In Sports Leadership Award in 2021.
PHOTOS (Top) Doug and Dorene Ingalls, far left and right, respectively, take a photo with 2003 Miss Basketball Krista Clement. (Middle) Dorene and Doug Ingalls. (Photos by David Latva.)