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Written By Ink Free News / Sports on Sunday, February 9, 2020

Penn erupts into a wild celebration after fending off Warsaw, 45-44, Saturday in the Warsaw Girls Basketball Sectional championship. (Photos by Mike Deak)

WARSAW – Everything was setting up for some kind of upset Saturday night at the Tiger Den. Penn was being pushed. Penn was losing its cool. Penn was running out of time.

Somehow, No. 6 Penn found a way to show why it has become a perennial championship contender, escaping the Class 4-A No. 4 Warsaw Girls Basketball Sectional holding yet another sectional championship trophy after edging Warsaw, 45-44.

The Kingsmen were in chase mode for much of the game, having to respond to Warsaw’s methodical movement and timely execution of the offense. A laborious first quarter saw the buzzer sound with the score tied at 16, but fouls started creeping into Penn’s model. Antreese Shelton quickly got in foul trouble, which opened up the lane enough for Brielle Harrison to go to work. A Harrison bucket and a pair of free throws helped the Tigers to a 25-23 halftime lead.

Warsaw’s Brielle Harrison works for a bucket against Penn.

Penn’s foul trouble really became prevalent in the third, with Shelton getting whistled for her fourth, then star guard Kaitlyn Costner getting called for a foul and subsequent tech. Kaylee Patton sank the bonus shots, and Warsaw held a 29-24 lead.

“We really just had to regain our composure and not let things get away from us,” said Penn head coach Kristi Ulrich. “The kids responded. We stayed composed and showed a lot of fight and perseverance.”

Warsaw, however, couldn’t pull away.

After Harrison sank a pair of free throws to open the fourth for a three-point lead, the Tigers gave away two straight possessions in what would haunt Warsaw all night. The Tigers gave away the ball 16 times to just six for the Kingsmen. As Warsaw struggled to get its offense going, Penn would rally to take the lead as Trinity Clinton bulldogged her way into the lane and got the shot to fall plus the harm. The made free throw all of a sudden had Penn up 44-42.

“We played our best basketball at the end of the year,” said Warsaw head coach Lenny Krebs. “You look at where we are at right now, we played our best basketball. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good enough today. We were one shot from being where we needed to be.”

Reganne Pate, who eclipsed the 1,000 career point plateau in the game, hit a free throw to give Penn a three-point lead. A Patton offensive rebound and shuttle to Harrison for two set the stage at 45-44. After a Penn turnover, Warsaw held possession for nearly the entire final minute, but only a Kensie Ryman floater that missed as time expired was all the hosts could muster.

Penn’s Caroline Morris blocks the shot of Warsaw’s Kendall Wayne.

Patton and Harrison left their mark for Warsaw in their final game at the Den. Patton finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds and Harrison 14 points and eight rebounds.

Ryman was 6-6 from the free throw line and had four assists for the Tigers, which close at 16-8 overall but finished with 12 wins in its final 15 contests.

“I told them how much I love them,” stammered a tear-laden Krebs. “The longer I have done this, the more I realize it’s not always about winning and losing. It’s about the relationships you build with these young ladies. I can tell you that the three years I’ve had here, they have been special.”

Clinton led the Kingsmen with 16 points and Pate ended with 13 points.

Penn (25-2) will tussle with Crown Point (26-0) at the LaPorte Regional next weekend. The Kingsmen, which have played in three state finals since 2011, including a championship in 2016, have only lost 31 games in 11 years with Ulrich at the helm.

“Most of these kids have played in big game situations over the past couple years, especially our junior class,” Ulrich said. “Really proud of their resiliency and making some big plays and maintaining composure down the stretch.”

Senior Kaylee Patton finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds in her final game at Warsaw.

Posted In: Girl's Sports > Basketball