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Written By StaceyPageOnline / Sports on Monday, November 19, 2018

Nolan Groninger goes up for two between Whitko’s Brett Sickaffose and Brian Collins during a game in Warsaw last season. Groninger is back after leading the team in 2017-18, but there’s a lot around him, too. (File photo by James Costello)

WARSAW — Last year, Warsaw’s boys basketball team had little returning varsity experience on the roster. It was perhaps not surprising — although no less disappointing — that the Tigers dropped seven of their first 10 games before regrouping in the second half of the season.

With four of five starters and five of six top players from that much-improved squad returning to this year’s lineup, head coach Doug Ogle is optimistic ahead of Tuesday’s season-opener at Tippecanoe Valley.

“You can just feel it. It’s different from the experience aspect of our team, just way more experience,” explained Ogle. “Coming into last year early Nolan Groninger played a little bit and Zach Riley, so we had two guys that played, and now we have five or six. We’re older, a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger.”

Groninger returns to this year’s team after starting in all but his team’s senior night game last season, as do 6-4 junior Brian Elliott, 6-4 senior Jaylen Reese and 6-8 senior Tyler Metzinger. That group represents a combined 31 points, 12.7 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game, led by Groninger’s team-leading 12.5 points per night and 119 assists over the season. Groninger will no doubt be a big key to his team’s success again in 2018-19, but there’s more around him at the start of the year — in particular Metzinger has shown significant physical and skill development in the offseason — and Ogle thinks this year’s Tigers will be a more balanced group offensively.

“Offensively and defensively, Nolan is obviously a real key for us, but he has more help. We’re probably going to be pretty balanced, I would think, between inside-out offense and outside offense,” Ogle said. “You could argue that Nolan may lead us in scoring, but he might not. I don’t know. I’m anxious to see, but my coaching instincts tell me that we’re going to be formidable this year. I do believe that.”

That core of veteran talent will be buoyed by the return of junior guard Blake Marsh, who led the JV in scoring last season before moving to full-time varsity play after the JV Tigers’ first eight contests, as well as 6-4 junior guard Jaylen Coon and Wyatt Amiss, another junior guard bumping up to the varsity this year. Keagan Larsh — a 6-2 junior forward — and Coon were the top rebounders on last year’s junior varsity squad, and both will be among the top 10 for this year’s varsity lineup.

It’s a group that boasts experience, size and skill, and the leadership seniors Groninger, Reese, Metzinger and Trevor Rumple have already shown has also got Ogle and his staff feeling good in the preseason.

“When you have a quality group of seniors you can depend on that are solid, that’s very helpful. That’s one of the reasons we have good optimism going into this season is the quality of our senior players,” said Ogle.

After opening at home with Valley at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, Warsaw will hit the road for Columbia City Saturday, then play back-to-back road games at Homestead and Huntington North before returning home to host Lake Central on Dec. 7. The Tigers are defending a string of five straight Northern Lakes Conference championship seasons and open their NLC slate at Wawasee Dec. 14 looking to avenge a big loss to the Warriors last year.

“I think after our first four games, we’ll have a good idea of where we’re at,” said Ogle.

“We think we have a chance to have a good team. Our expectation is that we’re going to be pretty solid. If we can stay healthy, I think we can have a chance to have a memorable season.”

Posted In: Boy's Sports > Basketball