1,000-Point Pair Setting Tone for Watervliet's Hoops League Champions

By Wes Morgan
Special for MHSAA.com

March 1, 2022

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).

Watervliet basketball“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.

Watervliet basketball“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.)

Little Provides Major Stride as 1st Woman to Officiate Boys Hoops Final since 1995

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

April 13, 2023

Delonda Little was already a trailblazer to many before this year’s MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals.

Greater DetroitBut what happened last month at Breslin Center made her even more of one on a statewide level.

A referee and assigner for 20 years in the Detroit area, Little is a female boys and girls basketball official who mentors both male and female referees – no matter the gender or level, as she officiates high school and college games.

Officials often go to Little for guidance, direction and assignments, which has made her respected for years throughout Metro Detroit in the prep basketball community. Then, her status as a trailblazer grew even more.

Little was assigned as an official for the Division 3 Boys Basketball Final between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis, and she became the first female referee to officiate an MHSAA Boys Basketball Final since Traverse City’s Barb Beckett 1995.

“It was a very good feeling to know I was the one selected,” said Little, who officiated the Final with Matt Olson and Zach Porritt.  

In fact, while attending a Semifinal game the Friday before the Final, Little received a phone call from an area code she didn’t recognize.

She answered, and it was Beckett.

“At first I didn’t know the name,” Little said. “I said, ‘No, I don’t know you, but that’s fine.’”

Beckett then explained she was the first female referee to be assigned a Boys Basketball Final, and just wanted to offer support to Little.

At that point, Little became excited and thankful she answered the call.

“It was very nice to hear from her because she wanted to reach out and if not pass the torch, to congratulate me,” Little said.

Little, 51, said she found out she was going to be refereeing the Division 3 boys championship game just before the start of the postseason when she received an email from the MHSAA.

“I’m looking at the email and I’m like, boys?” Little said. “I was shocked.”

But she was shocked in a good way, and obviously excited for the honor.

Little monitors the action between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis.Little didn’t find out until a couple of days before the St. Francis/Beecher contest that she would be officiating that specific championship game, but the Monday of boys championship week was when she really started to receive congratulations from friends and colleagues.

That’s when an article came out in the Detroit News detailing her selection, which led to countless calls, texts and congratulatory messages on social media.

“I couldn’t even (keep up with the comments),” she said. “That’s how overwhelming the actual tags were. It came from all across the state with officials, men and women, because I do women’s college (games). Some of the college ladies were reaching out. I was getting all the hoopla before the game.”

Little said she normally doesn’t get nervous for games, but not having some nerves became a bit harder once so many people knew of her achievement.

However, she settled into a normal routine quickly once the game started.

“I wanted to get it done, get it over with and do well,” she said.

Little did do well, which is no surprise to everyone who knew her before she officiated on the boys championship stage.

It was just another feather in the cap for Little, who in 2016 became the first woman to officiate a boys Detroit Public School League championship game.

“Delonda is one of the top officials in the Detroit area, and our staff doesn’t look at Delonda as a female working a boys game – we see one of the top officials in Detroit working a basketball game,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “There are females officiating in the NBA and female officials in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The aspect that made Delonda’s selection for this MHSAA championship game nearly unique will soon be the norm at all levels of athletics.”     

Little graduated from Detroit Osborn in 1989 and starred on the basketball court at Wayne State, earning induction into WSU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.

Her day job is as an officer for the Michigan Department of Corrections, but her passion is officiating. She’s been an MHSAA-registered official for basketball for two decades and also was registered for volleyball for four years. This past fall she registered for football for the first time.

“I get something from it because it keeps me in shape, I love the people I work with and I like the kids,” Little said. “You are always teaching, and I like training the newer officials. I just enjoy it. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t refereeing.”

Going forward, Little hopes her championship game assignment will now be an inspiration for other female referees.

“There aren’t very many women who would like to work boys basketball or feel comfortable,” Little said. “If that’s something they desire, I’m hoping more women are selected to work the games if they feel comfortable.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTOS (Top) Delonda Little takes her position on the court during the Division 3 Boys Basketball Final on March 25 at Breslin Center. (Middle) Little monitors the action between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis.