Warsaw senior Zoe Bergan drives baseline during Warsaw’s game against Ben Davis at the Tiger Den Friday night.
Warsaw senior Zoe Bergan drives baseline during Warsaw’s game against Ben Davis at the Tiger Den Friday night.
The Warsaw and Ben Davis girls basketball teams had never met before Friday night at the Tiger Den. The first matchup in the series left all in attendance hoping the two teams will play again soon. The Tigers would overcome a late spurt from the visitors and hold on to a 60-50 victory, winning their sixth game in seven tries and moving the team’s record to 6-2.

“This team has a tremendous amount of upside,” Warsaw head coach Lenny Krebs said. “You can forget when they’re out there how young this team is. I think they can do something special if they keep trusting each other, and they’re starting to do that.”

Both teams struggled to find any rhythm over the first eight minutes of the game, mostly due to the fact that both sides started the game with some suffocating defense. It would be Warsaw that struck first, as the Tigers were able to find some holes in the Ben Davis defense and convert their shots to take an early 5-0 lead. The lead would not last long, as the visitors would answer with a run of their own fueled by 6’4” senior center Cristen Carter. Carter was a problem for Warsaw to deal with all night long, using her height to grab nearly every rebound in her vicinity and alter many shots on defense. She’d finish with a game-high 24 points.

Also not helping the pace was the commonness of the referee whistle in the first quarter. Both teams got into early foul trouble, committing four fouls each in the opening eight minutes. After a slugfest of an opening quarter, the Giants took a two-point lead into the second.

The visitors began the second period by adding on to their lead. The two sides played very different styles of offense over the course of the game, with Warsaw sticking to the perimeter and using quick passes to try and find an open shooter, while Ben Davis continually attacked the paint as often as possible. The Giants’ strategy was the profitable one over the first half of the second quarter, with Warsaw struggling to get open for more than a second and being limited to just one shot per possession due to some great Ben Davis rebounding.

Over the last four minutes of the first half, the script flipped. As the pace began to speed up, the home team began to thrive. Warsaw was able to make life incredibly difficult for the Giants in the open court, picking up a plethora of steals and turning the turnovers into easy fast break points. Six different players would make the Tigers’ first six shots, creating a balanced attack that left Ben Davis guessing. After trailing by five just minutes’ prior, a steal and score by Warsaw’s Ava Egolf at the buzzer would give the home team a five-point lead at halftime.

“We take pride in establishing the tempo that we want to play,” Krebs said. “We’re working on that pace every day in practice. We need that tempo to be high, we could see them getting fatigued. We were fatigued, but we’re used to it.”

The Tigers compounded off of a solid end to the first half by seizing control of the game at the start of the third quarter. The scalding pace continued as Warsaw converted on shots in transition and followed it up by pressuring Ben Davis ball handlers up and down the court. Brooke Winchester started the period by scoring four of her 12 points on the team’s first two possessions. Winchester also put in a ton of work defensively, ending the night with seven steals. Freshman Brooke Zartman would take over the game completely in the third quarter, making four three pointers in a row to help balloon the Tiger lead. By the time the dust settled, the home team had taken a 13-point lead into the final eight minutes of play.

Ben Davis would not go away quietly. The Giants would get back into the game quickly, using a 10-1 run engineered almost solely by Carter to trim the lead to four with four minutes remaining in the game. Warsaw would hold it together though, as Joslyn Bricker and Zartman would nail back-to-back threes to give the Tigers some breathing room once again. Bricker finished the game with eleven points and Zartman ended with a team-high 23.

“They started to put pressure on us and we panicked. We lost the togetherness that got us that lead in the first place,” Krebs said. “That individual ball, that’s not us. But they found that togetherness again and rallied. We hit some big shots.”

Warsaw has a quick turnaround, hosting Westfield Saturday evening. Like Ben Davis, the Tigers have never faced Westfield in the program’s history.

“This is our ‘sectional week,’ scheduling games on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. In the playoffs, you might play a team you aren’t familiar with. That’s why we do this,” Krebs said. “This is a young team. I can schedule some easy games and give them a false sense of where we’re at, but I’m not going to do that.”