PANTHERS SPOIL TIGER TITLE HOPES
StaceyPageOnline / Sports on Friday, January 25, 2019
NAPPANEE – Thursday’s girls basketball game between Warsaw and host NorthWood played more like two teams with something to prove. Tucked in the folds of a 46-42 Panther win was a bitter pill the Tigers had to swallow after the game ended.
Warsaw, which came into the night with something left to play for in the regular season, was still chasing Northridge for a possible split of the Northern Lakes Conference title. The outside shot of a split was going to mean Warsaw had to win out, beating both NorthWood Thursday and Goshen Saturday, and hope Northridge would lose to Plymouth at home Thursday night. One-third of that equation came to be, with the Pilgrims upsetting the Raiders 45-43, the first loss for Ridge in conference since 2015, spanning 28 games.
But the shooting of NorthWood’s Kenzie Bergman, as well as Warsaw’s inability to get hot from outside, foiled Warsaw’s shot at a split.
Bergman hit consecutive threes in the third to pull Wood within two at 27-25 after Warsaw had led by as much as 11 in the second quarter. NorthWood would grab the lead after Bergman’s third triple of the quarter put the Panthers up 32-31.
“One thing Kenzie has learned over the course of her career is use screens much better,” stated NorthWood head coach Adam Yoder. “It’s taken four years, but we’re getting there to where she understands the pace of how to set up a cut and how to get yourself open and have your feet set. Her teammates do a great job screening for her and her teammates do a great job getting her the ball when she’s hot.
“I thought she made two and we kinda got away from her a little bit. Warsaw did a good job marking her, but we never lost sight of the fact that we had to get shots for Kenzie. It was a great team win.”
Maddie Ryman flipped the fortunes for the Tigers, at least for a few moments, with two threes of her own, the second putting the Tigers up 42-37. But back-to-back baskets by Maddy Payne and Kate Rulli dissolved the two-possession lead, and Bergman then hit another triple to put Wood up for good at 44-42.
Bergman finished 4-6 from three-point range to account for her 12 points while Rulli paced the squad with 14 points and eight rebounds. Payne chipped in 11 points and five rebounds. Alea Minnich also hit a key three to help NorthWood’s comeback.
“These kids really just needed to have something good happen to them tonight,” Yoder said, whose team improves to 16-7 overall and 4-3 in the NLC. “It was more about us wanting to get that winning record in the conference. It puts us at 4-3 in the conference instead of 3-4, and for some reason, it just sounds a lot better.”
It was just the third time this season Warsaw (13-8) lost a game when it lead at the half. Part of its demise was a 6-22 performance behind the arc and a 6-15 free throw effort. Ryman led all scorers with 17 points, going 3-7 from deep, but the remaining Tigers were 3-15 from distance.
“The second half we didn’t come out with that sharp focus that we needed to come out, and we gave up too many shots to the wrong people,” said Warsaw head coach Lenny Krebs. “We left Bergman open a few too many times. It’s not what they do, it’s who is doing it.”
Warsaw’s loss eliminated itself from the share of the NLC pie in losing its second game, also falling to Northridge earlier in the season. Northridge will close the season still as NLC champs at 6-1, while Warsaw sits at 4-2 with a game against Krebs’ former squad of Goshen Saturday at the Tiger Den.
“I assume we are going to play this Saturday,” chuckled Krebs of the Goshen matchup, which as been moved three times this season. “That’s a hard thing for me, just being there for 14 years. It’s been an emotional roller coaster to get yourself prepared to face those kids that you coached for a long time. Then it gets cancelled and you do it again. That’s the one I’m just ready to get in and get over with. I love those girls dearly.
“It’s not necessarily whether we win or lose, but if we can get some momentum back and understand how to fix what we need to fix going into the sectional.”
Warsaw won the JV game 43-28 over NorthWood and also claimed the freshman game 42-40.