Using her quickness to get to the basket, Warsaw senior Bailie Stephens dribbles past Jada Carter during the first quarter.
Using her quickness to get to the basket, Warsaw senior Bailie Stephens dribbles past Jada Carter during the first quarter.
SYRACUSE – The Wawasee Warriors girls’ basketball team was seeking their first Northern Lakes Conference (NLC) win Saturday night in the Hardwood Teepee, but they’ll have to wait until they face their next conference foe in January to crack the league win column. The Warsaw Tigers’ solid, balanced attack in Saturday’s 51-27 win kept the Warriors out of the NLC’s win column.

The Tigers (9-4, 3-0 NLC)  knew the Warriors (7-6, 0-4) would be a tough out despite the polarity of their positions in the league standings. Warsaw head coach Lenny Krebs expected a fight from the opening tip-off against Warrior coach Matt Carpenter’s all-senior starting five.

“We knew they were going to play with passion right off the bat,” said Krebs. “It was an NLC road game for us, and (Wawasee) wants that first conference win on their home floor.”

Warsaw put the game’s first four points on the scoreboard, then Wawasee’s Kennedy White and Emily Hanes fueled an 8-point run with consecutive 3-point baskets. Lindsay Doss’s reverse layup punctuated the run near the first frame.

The Tigers, however, quickly settled into the Warriors’ increased pace of play reeling off 12 straight points, including three breakaway layups off steals, to regain the lead, and finish the first period back in control, 20-10.

“The girls maintained their composure, and we wanted the pace of play to pick up,” Krebs remarked. “(We) saw that pace start to fatigue them, and that’s what we wanted.”

Warsaw widened its lead at the end of each ensuing period to 30-17 at halftime, and 42-20 after three quarters before the Tigers’ 5’11” senior forward Morgan Nichols scored on an inside power move to give her team its largest lead of the night 51-25 inside the game’s closing minute.

The Tigers’ box score reflected their balanced effort. The senior trio of Bailie Stephens (15 points), Abby Sanner (12 points), Kacilyn Krebs (10 points) led the way offensively aided by physical sophomore forward Ava Egolf (8 points including two breakaway layups), and Brooke Winchester (4 points).

Stephens (3 steals) had a solid defensive game as well with support from Egolf, and Zoe Bergan (2 steals each). Sanner hauled in 9 rebounds and added 2 thefts for the victors.

“Bailie is doing a better job of leading our offense,” Krebs noted. “She’s getting up the floor more quickly and getting us into our offense. Kacilyn is using that strength and size she has. Ava Egolf and Zoe Bergan turned in a good defensive performance.”

The effort served more than the primary purpose of getting an essential NLC win on the road. Coach Krebs and his Tigers viewed a 45-35 loss to IHSAA Class 4A seventh-ranked Columbia City team as validation of their competitiveness with elite opponents. Saturday’s convincing, furthermore, win served its purpose by improving aspects of the game Warsaw can control toward their journey to conference and post-season success.

”I’m trying to get the kids to understand we control… field goal percentage by what shots we take, when they take the shot, and where they take it from,” Krebs said. “I thought we did a better job of that tonight than we did against Columbia City.”

Wawasee also had balanced scoring among its squad with White (7 points), Doss and Becca Smith (6 points each), Mackenzie Hackleman (5 fourth-quarter points), and Haines (3 points) hitting the books.

The Tigers picked up a 36-29 win in the junior varsity game. Viviana Zambrano (18 points, 2 steals), Makia Lucas (9 points, 11 rebounds), and Joey Rastrelli (7 points, 7 rebounds) paced the orange and black. Wawasee’s statistical leaders included Hackleman (10 points), Abbi Burleson (8 points, 13 rebounds, 3 steals), and Luci Wilkinson (5 points).

Warsaw’s next foe will be IHSAA Class 4A ninth-ranked Lake Central Wednesday in the Tiger Den. The Indians’ only loss was last Friday, 51-48 in overtime, to Class 4A top-ranked Crown Point. Wawasee’s next game is also Wednesday home contest against Central Noble.