EMERGING STARS, SENIOR LEADERS AMONG GIRLS HOOPS ALL-IFN
Ink Free News / Sports on Monday, February 17, 2020
WARSAW – The 2019-20 girls basketball season saw a lot of ups and downs for the Ink Free News area basketball programs. With the swings during the season came a lot of growth for some new players to become household names. Our IFN All-Area list for this season saw just one player return to our First Team, which NorthWood’s Maddy Payne happens to be our choice for Player of the Year.
IFN First Team
Maddy Payne, NorthWood — Coaches lost sleep at night trying to figure out a way to curb Maddy Payne as part of NorthWood’s total package this season. Payne, at 13 points, six rebounds and two steals per game, had the numbers to affect both ends of the court. The stat package, plus her intangibles, afforded her our IFN Player of the Year award.
Brielle Harrison, Warsaw — Brielle Harrison made a huge jump as a senior for the Tigers, and did it from day one. Opening the year with 14 points and 11 rebounds against a highly-ranked Norwell side, Harrison would set the tone for six total double-doubles this season. Harrison pulled down eight offensive rebounds and 14 total boards to go with 15 points in a win at Wawasee. Coming into her senior season, Harrison had a grand total of one double-double in her career and had only scored more than 10 points one time. In her senior season, Harrison eclipsed that figure 15 times, and ended with averages of 11.6 points and 6.3 rebounds. The Bethel College recruit was the only Lady Tiger on a 16-win team to reach double figures in season scoring.
Kate Rulli, NorthWood — Kate Rulli and Maddy Payne caused problems for teams all season. Rulli announced in game one she was ready to roll. Registering 31 points and 14 rebounds – seven offensive – against Riley in the season opener was a statement. Rulli also had six straight games of at least 10 rebounds, including 12 in a huge win over Northridge that kept NorthWood unbeaten in the Northern Lakes Conference. Rulli had 29 points and 11 rebounds against Wawasee and 27 points and 10 boards against Michigan City. Her 17 points and nine boards were huge in fending off West Noble during the team’s sectional championship run.
Kensie Ryman, Warsaw — A point guard with more turnovers than assists usually doesn’t end up on a First Team list. But Kensie Ryman has a case as arguably the most important player to their team in the area. Ryman made the jump from role player as a sophomore to starting guard as a junior, and helped Warsaw to a 4-0 start. But a shoulder injury to Ryman at Crown Point saw Warsaw coincidentally lose its next five games with Ryman on the bench during its toughest stretch of the season. Ryman returned to help Warsaw win eight of its next nine games. She finished with per game averages of 7.9 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists, but her 20 points and buzzer-beating half-court three sunk Elkhart Central in the regular season finale, which led to the Tigers beating the Blazers in the sectional the next week. Ryman also had 22 points in a win against Manchester and recorded six steals in a victory against Perry Meridian.
Sidney Wagner, Tippecanoe Valley — Tippecanoe Valley has run a ‘next one up’ mentality in the program after ascending to state prominence in the past decade. With the graduation of 2019 IFN Player of the Year Sophie Bussard, the spotlight was waiting for the ‘next one’. Sidney Wagner stepped into the spotlight and put the team on her back. In the season-opening win against Bremen, Wagner had 20 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. She nearly had a quadruple-double in a loss at Rochester, recording 10 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists and eight steals. In a bounce-back win against Southwood, Wagner had 17 points and 22 rebounds, and in the win at Manchester to clinch a share of the Three Rivers Conference title, Wagner led the team with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Posting 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals per night, her 18 points and nine rebounds in the sectional loss to NorthWood left an impression Wagner is ready to take the next step.
IFN Second Team
Tori Calizo, Lakeland Christian — Tori Calizo will be sorely missed by coach Allison Kaufman and the Cougars. The senior combo player has led her team in both scoring and rebounding each of the past two seasons and was already averaging near double figures as a sophomore back in 2017-18. Her 12.2 points per game and 8.7 rebounds this season will be tough to replace, as will her efforts on the defensive end, where she averaged 2.5 steals an outing. The Cougars used her talents in a variety of ways, too — a capable ball-handler, she would also often roam the low post for LCA. It will be hard to replace her versatile skill set.
Emily Haines, Wawasee — Emily Haines had a breakout sophomore season for Wawasee. Her eight points per game paced the team, and her four-and-a-half rebounds an outing were among the team’s best boarding efforts. She could step outside and hit the 3 — she recorded a 37 percent shooting clip from beyond the arch — and at 5’8” could still be useful on the interior. She showed a glimpse of how good she could be with 12 points in her team’s season-opener with Prairie Heights. She went on to score in double figures in seven more games — and in three of her last four, including a 19-point night opposite Whitko on Jan. 21, so the future looks bright for the young Lady Warrior.
Alea Minnich, NorthWood — If Maddy Payne and Kate Rulli have gotten much of the attention of NorthWood’s opponents over its regional championship campaign, Alea Minnich has been something of a secret ingredient to the team’s success. The versatile junior has done a little of everything for the Black Swish while averaging more than 25 minutes of floor time an outing. A reliable points producer, she has put up 8.7 points a night for her team. At 5’10” with good handles, she’s occasionally manned the point for NorthWood and has passed out 2.3 assists a game. She isn’t afraid to battle inside, either, where she’s averaging 3.3 rebounds an outing.
Kaylee Patton, Warsaw — Kaylee Patton did a little bit of everything for the Lady Tigers. A four-year letter winner, her veteran basketball IQ paid big dividends for the team in its 16-8 campaign this winter. She was a rock for her team, playing in all 24 games and averaging 25.3 minutes a night along the way. The 5’9” guard’s 7.9 points per game were second only to classmate Brielle Harrison’s offensive production, and her 3.4 assists a night were the team’s best. When the Tigers were successful shooting from deep, she was a big part of the reason, and she connected at a 33 percent clip from three-point range over her final year with the squad.
Jillian Walls, Tippecanoe Valley — Sidney Wagner was the Lady Vikings’ do-it-all guard in 2019-20, but Jillian Walls was its shooting star. The senior sharpshooter canned a program-record 63 three-pointers over her final campaign, averaging 10.4 points per night. Her single-season record is one of two three-point records she holds at Valley — she also tied her team’s single-game record with seven treys during a win over Logansport back on Nov. 19. And Walls was unselfish too, averaging 1.6 assists on the offensive end. A solid back court defender, her roughly two steals per night were also among the team’s best.
IFN Honorable Mention
Kennedy White, Wawasee; Becca Smith, Wawasee; Abby Sanner, Warsaw; Kendall Wayne, Warsaw; Emma Craig, Tippecanoe Valley; Kaydence Mellott, Tippecanoe Valley; Whytnie Miller, Triton; Abbey Viers, Triton; Jessi Calizo, Lakeland Christian; Kendal Miller, NorthWood