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Written By Ink Free News / Sports on Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Warsaw’s Bailie Stephens gets to the edge as NorthWood’s Kendal Miller defends Tuesday night at The Pit. InkFreeNews photos by Mike Deak

By Mike Deak

NAPPANEE – It certainly isn’t your pre-pandemic Lady Panthers.

The trademarks that made NorthWood a household entity a year ago, and for much of the past decade, were on display Tuesday night. But those traits were exhibited by Warsaw, which turned around what NorthWood did to so many other teams over the years in a 68-34 double up in The Pit.

How NorthWood killed teams a year ago was what Warsaw did to the host Panthers, feeding the ball inside to its height and banking in easy three-foot shots. Abby Sanner and Audrey Grimm took entry passes and easily converted shot after shot early on, as Warsaw scored its first 12 points from five feet in.

Add in three-pointers from Kacilyn Krebs and Bailie Stephens and it was 18-2 very quickly.

“They just got it down there three or four times in a row and popped it inside, which is what you should do,” said NorthWood head coach Mark Heeter of Warsaw’s early run. “We’re going to be shorter than just about every team this year, and we know that. We have to learn to play without two six-footers that we had for three years. With those two (Maddy Payne and Kate Rulli) gone, it’s going to be an adjustment. It’s something we are going to have to learn to defend.”

NorthWood’s Abby Steiner works through the defense of Warsaw’s Kensie Ryman.

Sanner was well on her way to a monster night, but subbed in and out and finished with 14 points and seven boards. Bailie Stephens also scored 14 points, doing a little of everything with two steals, two rebounds and an assist in 27 quality minutes.

Kensie Ryman led the Tigers with 15 points and added seven assists and three steals.

“We’ve finally got our top six on the floor together first the first time tonight,” said Warsaw head coach Lenny Krebs. “I thought Bailie Stephens played one the best games she’s played at Warsaw. I thought she was finally under control, she was attacking the basket and seeing the floor. She was starting to learn when to shoot, thought it was a great effort from Bailie.”

As Warsaw asserted itself from the opening tip, NorthWood really struggled to get its engines running. The huge early deficit was compounded with its scorers – Alea Minnich and Kendal Miller – unable to get any open looks. The perimeter defense from Ryman, Stephens and Grimm did a number on slowing down the Panther setup.

While Minnich would lead all scorers with 16 points, eight of those came in the fourth quarter. Miller was held to a single field goal and two total points.

Bre Wise had seven points and three boards for the Panthers, which played its first game since Nov. 21. At 0-3 overall, NorthWood is struggling to find its rhythm, and to a degree, building a new identity in the long periods between games. The Panthers went seven days between its first two games, after having its first two games canceled.

“It just didn’t look like we were ready to play tonight,” Heeter said. “It wasn’t for a lack of effort, but we have to get better at the little things. Moving down the floor on defense, moving our feet. Warsaw played extremely well tonight, and you can tell they have played more than we have. But we still have to establish ourselves and we didn’t do anything about that in the first half tonight.”

The JV game went to Warsaw in a 33-16 result.

Warsaw (5-2) is next scheduled to visit Fort Wayne Snider on Saturday, the same day as NorthWood’s next game at LaPorte.

Posted In: Girl's Sports > Basketball