Warsaw sophomore Brooke Winchester protects the ball while going up for a layup against Aijia Elliott of Kokomo during Thursday's morning game. Photos by Gary Nieter
Warsaw sophomore Brooke Winchester protects the ball while going up for a layup against Aijia Elliott of Kokomo during Thursday's morning game. Photos by Gary Nieter
After each picking up wins earlier in the afternoon on the opening day of the largest Lady Tiger Tournament to date, Warsaw and Chesterton faced off for each team’s second game of the day at the Tiger Den. With both teams playing for a spot in the tournament championship game, it was Warsaw that emerged victorious with a 60-47 victory to improve to 12-3.

The competitiveness and pace of the game was apparent from the opening seconds. With a spot in the title game on the line, both teams raced out to lightning quick starts on offense. Both teams raced down the court and put the ball into the bottom of the net so quickly those in attendance could blink their eyes and miss a pair of lead changes. It didn’t matter whether shots came from long range or in the paint, both teams were finding offense to be very easy in the opening eight minutes.

The Lady Trojans presented a few problems for Warsaw early on in the game, particularly in the rebounding department. Chesterton stuffed the stat sheet with offensive rebounds in the opening minutes, but was unable to convert the opportunities into points. As the game went on, Warsaw would get better on the glass and use that aspect of the game to fuel its success.

“We don’t believe in 50-50 balls. We believe every ball should be ours 100% of the time. Everybody wants to compete during the 5% that they have the ball, but I’m interested in keeping energy levels high during the other 95%. It’s the difference between a good and a great team,” Krebs said.

Leading by three heading into the second quarter, the Tigers would continue the onslaught of made shots. Shining once again was freshman guard Brooke Zartman. A key catalyst to the run, Zartman would get into a groove shooting the basketball in the second, piling up the points in a hurry as the Tigers extended their lead to double digits for the first time. Zartman would make 5 threes in the game and finish her night with 17 points to go with a team-high six rebounds and four steals.  

“Brooke has so many ways she can put the ball into the hoop that she doesn’t even understand it yet,” Krebs said. “She’s a fantastic shooter but we’re trying to turn her into a better scorer from all over the floor. Using all of the tools in her toolbox.”

As smooth and rhythmic as both teams were moving the basketball over the first 12 minutes of the play, the opposite was the case over the final four minutes of the first half. The game halted to almost a complete stop at points as both sides caught a quick case of the turnover bug. It didn’t matter if it was in the open court or with a player going up for a rebound, the basketball found itself out of bounds quite often as the half wrapped up. Despite the sloppiness to close out the first half, Warsaw headed into the locker room with a nine-point lead.

The lead would only grow larger in the second half as other Tiger scorers joined Zartman in double figures. Sophomore Brooke Winchester had a great second half, playing tough defense while getting her jumper going. She’d finish the night second on the team in scoring with 16 points. Abbey Peterson (12 points) and Joslyn Bricker (11 points) rounded out Warsaw’s top scorers.

“I think in the second half we took a step in the right direction of where we need to go,” Krebs said. “We’re still not there yet but you started to see extra passes and good things happening defensively. We’re getting back to being the team nobody wants to see.”

With the offense clicking and the defense really finding its footing in the second half, Warsaw was able to cruise through the fourth quarter up by double digits for the entire eight minutes. The Tigers will face off with either South Bend Washington or Columbia City on Friday night at 6 p.m. with the tournament trophy on the line. Warsaw will have a chance to either avenge an early season loss to Columbia City or be the first team to defeat Washington this season.

“It’s a free chance to get better, it’s a free chance to expose and be exposed. No matter who we play we’re going to be ready either way,” Krebs said.

In the first game of the day, a balanced scoring attack led Warsaw to a 54-39 victory over Kokomo in the team’s first meeting since 2004. Zartman, Winchester and Bricker all scored 15 points in the game. Winchester led the team with six rebounds.