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 wmorgan@joeinsider.com 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.)

Lansing Catholic Closes Season With Memorable Victory Close to Home

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

March 18, 2023

EAST LANSING – The Lansing Catholic girls basketball team took a short drive to end a long wait.

Playing just three miles from their high school, the Cougars defeated Frankenmuth 43-29 Saturday at the Breslin Center to win the MHSAA Division 2 Final. It was the first Finals title for the program since 1995.

“It felt like homecourt advantage a little bit,” Lansing Catholic senior guard Hannah Pricco said. “Our bus trip wasn’t super long. It just kind of felt like we were coming to our own court.”

The Cougars treated it that way, dominating from the beginning of the matchup in their first Finals trip since that 1995 title. They scored the game’s first 11 points and never looked back.

The Cougars’ Anna Richards (10) attempts to get a shot up over Frankenmuth’s Lexi Boyke.“This is, as you can imagine, extremely surreal,” Lansing Catholic coach Kacee Reid said. “You’re going through literally every emotion on the bench, especially in a game like that. Frankenmuth is making such a great comeback, and we knew they were going to fight to the end. To go through the anger and sadness and happiness, and now it’s over and we’ve won it. It’s just been a rollercoaster of emotions, and I can’t describe the pride I have in these girls.”

It was the second meeting between the two teams, with Lansing Catholic taking the first 74-42 on Feb. 2. But Reid wasn’t going to let her team come in overconfident.

“They didn’t get here by accident,” Reid said. “They’re in the state championship because they’re playing their best ball of the year. We played them a month and a half ago. … We’re a totally different team, and we knew they were a totally different team. We knew they had been playing some really good basketball, and it didn’t matter at all what that first outcome was. We knew this was going to be a battle.”

Lansing Catholic (24-5) never trailed, and led by as many as 17 points in the third quarter. Leah Richards led the Cougars with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Anna Richards had 14 points. Gabby Halliwill added seven.

The Cougars were spurred by their defense throughout, holding Frankenmuth to 9 of 36 shooting from the field and forcing 13 turnovers.

“For us, defensively, we had to switch it up,” Reid said. “We had to keep switching up between man and zone. They were making adjustments and we couldn’t really sit in one thing for too long; they got comfortable. That’s a credit to their coaching staff always making adjustments. We had to continue to switch things up defensively and try to hopefully make their shooters second-guess their shot, or maybe not know where we were coming from.”

Frankenmuth (25-3) didn’t go away, despite trailing by double digits for the majority of the game. 

That was helped by Lansing Catholic shooting 1 of 11 from the field in the third quarter, and going scoreless for the final 5:26 of the frame.

Tessa Roe (12) works to get past Clare Conzelmann and to the basket.The Eagles cut the lead to seven with 2:45 to play on a steal and layup from Clare Conzelmann, but never got closer.

“There was always belief no matter what detriment we got ourselves in,” Frankenmuth senior Lexi Boyke said. “I wouldn’t want to choose any other girls to play with and be in with at that point. I think we fought back and really prided ourselves on, ‘We can still do it.’ We didn’t stop fighting until the end.”

Lansing Catholic always figured Frankenmuth would make a run to get into the game, but was ready when it came.

“We knew they were going to make runs, we knew we weren’t going to hold them to seven points the whole game,” Anna Richards said. “We knew in the third quarter they were going to score, so we just had to stay composed, work the ball around on offense to get the good shots that we wanted.”

Boyke, who scored Frankenmuth’s first 10 points and was its only scorer well into the third quarter, finished with 16. She also reached 1,000 career points in the game, and had six rebounds, while Izzy Bernthal had seven.

Frankenmuth was making its first Finals appearance since winning the Class C title in 1996, one year after Lansing Catholic. 

“That’s a really good Lansing Catholic team, and you’ve seen that from their postseason run and beating an undefeated West Catholic team, and tonight finishing their season off with a state championship. So, congratulations to them,” Frankenmuth coach Joe Jacobs said. “I’m super proud of our kids. They didn’t quit tonight. They could have. … Fun experience, one that we want to treasure forever, but the motivation to come back again is here after tonight’s loss.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Lansing Catholic celebrates its Division 2 championship Saturday night at Breslin Center. (Middle) The Cougars’ Anna Richards (10) attempts to get a shot up over Frankenmuth’s Lexi Boyke. (Below) Tessa Roe (12) works to get past Clare Conzelmann and to the basket.