Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union

Among the returnees for the 2019-20 Warsaw Lady Tiger basketball team is Brielle Harrison.
Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union Among the returnees for the 2019-20 Warsaw Lady Tiger basketball team is Brielle Harrison.
Going by the numbers, Warsaw girls basketball was very similar in both of head coach Lenny Krebs’ first two seasons.

The Lady Tigers went 15-9 overall, 5-2 in the Northern Lakes Conference and lost in the second round of sectional play in both 2017-18 and 2018-19.

But each team is different. Each has their own personality.

The process of figuring out what Warsaw is all about for 2019-20 began long before preseason practice or even summer workouts began.

“We have worked extremely hard on our team chemistry since last year,” said Krebs. “This particular group of girls has done an amazing job of buying into and creating a team culture/chemistry that will allow us to achieve excellence.

“As the season goes on, I have no doubt our chemistry will continue to develop.

“We have a group of girls that care about the team and the success of their teammates as much as they do their own success.”

Besides the NLC, the Tigers will face tough non-conference opponents, including Norwell, Crown Point, Penn, Homestead and Fishers. Those five were a combined 112-20 a year ago. Crown Point was a semistate runner-up while Penn and Homestead both fell in regional finals.

“We will face adversity at some point this year and we are relying on the relationships we have developed to get us through,” said Krebs.

“This has been a fun team to be around and I think they are going to be a fun team to watch.”

Just two Warsaw players from the 2018-19 team were lost to graduation and both are on college squads — Maddie Ryman at Grace and Halle Shipp at Earlham.

Krebs is pleased to have so many varsity returnees.

“Just having the group together for another year is huge,” said Krebs.

“Last year we experienced some growing pains as we had quite a few kids get their feet wet at the varsity level.

“Couple that with losing Kaylee Patton (last December) to injury and this team has been through a lot together already. I am excited to watch them play this year.”

As Krebs gets his squad ready for the season opener Saturday against Norwell (JV tip-off at 2 p.m., followed by the varsity at The Tiger Den), the coach said he expects to have 5-foot-8 senior Patton, 5-11 senior Brielle Harrison, 5-5 junior Kensie Ryman, 5-9 sophomore Kacilyn Krebs, 6-2 sophomore Abby Sanner, junior Kendall Wayne, 5-6 sophomore Bailie Stephens and 5-10 junior Audrey Grimm in an eight-player rotation.

Patton averaged 9.0 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game as a junior. Sanner posted norms of 8.1 points and 5.1 rebounds as a freshman. Harrison tallied 6.4 points per contest and rebounded at a 5.3 clip. Krebs produced 5.0 points and 2.7 rebounds per outing. Ryman had 3.5 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

Krebs said he wants Warsaw to win games, but also steadily improve.

“We have one goal every single day — be a little bit better today than we were yesterday,” said Krebs. “Win the day. Go 1-0 today. The girls have really bought into this approach and it is evident in practice.

“We have had some intense practices. I am a pretty intense person and I demand a lot out of these kids. But they are starting to demand more out of each other than I demand out of them.”

In the Tigers’ storied history, they have raised a sectional trophy 17 times — the last in 2015.

“When it comes to our record and where we finish in the NLC and sectional, I think everyone would have similar goals,” said Krebs. “I think every team in the NLC will tell you they want to win the conference. I am sure every team in sectional will say they want to win sectional. We are no different.

“What is going to separate the teams that win conference and sectionals is not going to be found in their ‘want to’ but in how they approach each and every opportunity to improve. One can usually tell how competitive their team will be based on how they prepare.

“With 22 games it is easy to get caught up in your won/loss record. We want to continue to focus on our development and improvement. The record will take care of itself.” Krebs said his team can never be too good at the basics of the game.

“I think every coach will tell you that they will gladly take better fundamentals,” said Krebs. “Kids that can handle the ball, shoot and pass well, etc. make it much easier to coach. We will continue to develop these fundamentals throughout the season.” As for team strengths, Warsaw is a year older, stronger and wiser and battle-tested even if there are just two seniors three juniors and three sophomores.

“I absolutely love the makeup of this team,” said Krebs. “We have a lot of pieces we can put together to put various lineups on the floor.

“We can put a lineup on the floor in which Kaylee Patton is one of our smallest players or we can put a line up on the floor in which she is one of our biggest.

“I like our length and we have some quickness to go with it. In addition I think we have a group of kids that can shoot the ball.

“Between Kensie Ryman, Kendall Wayne, Kacilyn Krebs, Kaylee Patton and Bailie Stephens we have a group that at least one or more of them should be shooting well.

“We have really worked on these kids responding mentally to a missed shot and I think we will see the results of that work. At the same time we have some size that can bother some people.

“Abby Sanner, Brielle Harrison and Audrey Grimm will provide some matchup issues for people. Going to be fun to try to piece a lineup together each game that can take advantage of our opponent. It’s a matter of fitting the pieces of the puzzle together.

“We need to utilize the time we have on the floor together in order to learn how to play better as a unit,” said Krebs. “This will be something that continues to develop over the course of the season and hopefully we are peaking at the end of January and the first of February.” Krebs does not want the Tigers to be tight.

“This group also needs to work on just letting loose and playing free,” said Krebs. “They have a tendency to get caught up in their past mistakes instead of just moving on quickly.

“We have really worked at instilling a mindset that said, ‘Great players are not great because they are perfect, they are great because they have a perfect response to their mistakes.’ “I think we are going to see this mindset kick in at some point this year and when it does it will be exciting to see.” Krebs and his assistants — Kelsie Hermand and Kylie Mason — are looking to build confidence and get players to handle the pressures of being a student-athlete, embrace their role and develop a mistake response and an effective way of communication.

“The mental aspect of the game is one that we are working hard at developing in these kids,” said Krebs. “This is not just a basketball skill. It is a life skill. You are going to make mistakes in life. How quickly can you move from red (frozen by your mistake) to green (moving on)? “You are going to have to learn how to communicate effectively. How many jobs and relationships are lost because of poor communication? We want to teach kids how to handle pressure. Heaven knows they are going to face plenty of it in life.

“As a coaching staff we are taking an approach of using the game of basketball to teach life skills.” Krebs said that players often turn to the staff for confidence.

“Confidence equals Self Image times Evidence,” said Krebs. “Your self image is how you think and feel about yourself, while evidence is found in your preparation and past performance.

“Therefore a young lady who does not have a healthy self image will need a substantial amount of evidence in order to gain the confidence they need to perform.

“Someone who has a healthy self image will not need as much evidence in order to be confident in their abilities.

“However, an elite level of confidence is found in a player who has a healthy self image and also has a substantial amount of evidence. Our job as coaches is to help these young ladies develop a healthy self image of themselves, both on and off the court, while reminding them of their past performances and what they are capable of doing.

“Thus, creating an environment for each young lady to be confident in their ability to play the game of basketball and who they are as a person.” To develop these skills, Warsaw will conduct “Mental Health Mondays.” “The mental side of the game has become a big part of athletics and we want to make sure we are doing all we can as coaches to help the girls in this aspect,” said Krebs.

“I love these young ladies too much to do otherwise.”