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Written By Ink Free News / Sports on Sunday, February 7, 2021

By Nick Goralczyk

GOSHEN — When the sectional draw came out, the Warsaw girls basketball team knew it had the toughest row to hoe. Warsaw had to defeat No. 12 Goshen on its home floor and then follow that up by beating a sharp-shooting Northridge squad for the second time this season. The Tigers rose to both occasions and pulled out two gritty wins. The reward? A sectional championship rematch with No. 4 Penn.

Warsaw senior Kensie Ryman works the ball inside during the third quarter of Saturday’s Goshen sectional championship. InkFreeNews photo by Nick Goralczyk

Warsaw played three very fine quarters in Saturday’s showdown with the Kingsmen. But, as we all know, basketball games have four quarters. Warsaw started slow and was left, once again, wanting more as it watched Penn celebrate its fourth-straight sectional championship by a final score of 54-31.

While it seems cliché, the score really does not do the game justice. It does the first quarter justice, that’s where Saturday’s contest was won and lost. It is eight minutes the Tigers wish they could have back.

Penn came out swarming the Tigers and showing no mercy on defense. The Kingsmen sprinted to an 8-0 lead while Warsaw struggled to even work the ball inside the perimeter. The Tigers turned the ball over on their first six possessions and had eight turnovers total in the frame. Add an 0-7 shooting performance from the field and, yes, you had the ingredients for the worst start Warsaw could have imagined.

If not for a free throw from Abby Sanner with three minutes to play in the quarter, the Tigers would have been shutout. Penn closed the quarter on a 10-0 run and led 18-1 going into the second.

Game over.

Make no mistake, Warsaw never threw in the proverbial towel. But when you spot a team as talented Penn 17 points, the buses could warm a little earlier than usual.

Warsaw woke up and loosened up and the second quarter. The Tigers were only outscored 36-30 the rest of the game. That was what Warsaw was hoping for, a low-scoring game where its defense could carry the load. But, again, it is a four quarter game and Penn earned its spot in next week’s regional.

“I want to start off by saying congratulations to Penn,” began Warsaw head coach Lenny Krebs. “How do you simulate that quickness, that pressure? That’s kind of hard to do with no days to prepare. That’s not an excuse by any means. Penn did what they should have done, could have done. Penn deserves that credit.

“I think we were kind of in a little bit of a shock with the quickness and intensity that (Penn) brought. It caught me off guard because I thought our schedule was preparing us for that opportunity. Going to Homestead, going to Penn, going to Fishers, going to those place. I think once we got that shock out of our system we were able to compete and play.”

The loss hurts, as any season-ending loss does. There were plenty of tears and hugs to go around on the Warsaw bench as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Warsaw will say goodbye to three impactful seniors in Kensie Ryman, Kendall Wayne and Audrey Grimm. Ryman scored four points in Saturday’s loss and recorded two steals while Grimm scored nine points. When asked of his senior class, Krebs explained just how important the trio was to his program.

“They’ve showed us how to compete, how to get better and how to play the game the right way,” the coach offered. “As much I hate losing, I’m gonna go home and be able to lay my head down and rest. Because I know those three seniors are going to be successful in life. They can handle life’s punches and get back up and keep going. They proved that tonight.”

Krebs would continue on and talk about the incredibly bright future Warsaw has. That future group was on display all week at different points in the team’s three games. On Saturday it was Kacilyn Krebs who led Warsaw with 10 points, freshman Ava Wetzel led the team with five rebounds while junior Bailie Stephens scored four points off the bench. Sanner, a junior starter, had a quiet night on the stat sheet but will return as a key piece for the Tigers next year as well.

The sectional tournament truly brought out the best in Kacilyn Krebs as she averaged 10 points per game, finding a groove offensively Friday and Saturday night. The junior is a fierce competitor that shares her coach and father’s disdain for losing, but she welcomes what her senior season could bring.

“We were definitely led by our seniors this year,” stated the junior guard. “They prepared this junior class to step up and take over next year so we can do something special.

“Our seniors are irreplaceable and we have big roles to fill but I love our junior class and we are motivated to come back and do something special next year.”

Penn (20-3) was led offensively by Grace Schutt’s 12 points. Kaitlyn Costner and Trinity Clinton each scored eight points while three Kingsmen scored seven points each. The Kingsmen won the rebounding battle narrowly, 22-21, but had just nine turnovers compared to Warsaw’s 15 and scored 14 points off of those Tiger mistakes.

The Kingsmen move on to the LaPorte Regional next Saturday and play Merrillville (14-5) in the first semifinal while LaPorte (13-10) and No. 2 Crown Point (21-1) will meet in the second game. The regional winner will advance to either the LaPorte or Logansport Semi-State.

Posted In: Girl's Sports > Basketball