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Written By Ink Free News / Sports on Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Tippecanoe Valley’s Sidney Wagner has been chosen as our IFN Girls Basketball Player of the Year. InkFreeNews photos by Mike Deak

By Mike Deak, Adam Yoder and Nick Goralczyk

WARSAW – After spotlighting great two-way players, the 2020-21 InkFreeNews All-IFN First Team not only has headliners that impact the entire court, but led their teams in historic moments.

Our IFN Player of the Year, Tippecanoe Valley’s Sidney Wagner, hit a personal milestone in her final appearance with the Vikings, and our four other First Team selections were playing for championships in their final games.

The second installment of the girls basketball All-IFN awards features our top five, led by Wagner, as well as our honorable mention picks to round out the annual awards list.

For today, here is the finish to our spotlights on players that had an outstanding 2020-21 season. Players are listed in alphabetical order following Wagner.

Sidney Wagner, Tippecanoe Valley

While a host of girls basketball players had great seasons among their team’s construct, one player stood out as the heartbeat of their team. Sidney Wagner was that player for Tippecanoe Valley. The senior guard not only had a statistically elite season, but was called upon time and again to lead the Vikings. And she did as Valley played for a TRC championship into the final week and eclipsed the 1,000-point plateau as the Vikings battled in the sectional tournament.

Check out of feature on Sidney, our 2020-21 InkFreeNews Player of the Year.

Kacilyn Krebs, Warsaw

Kacilyn Krebs, Warsaw

Kacilyn Krebs is an excellent basketball player. As a selection the IFN All-Area first team, everyone knows that. However, some realize it and some don’t, but at the top of every area coach’s scouting report when playing Warsaw is Krebs. The focus of opponent’s scouting reports on the Tiger perimeter were proven right by Krebs’ 35 percent three-point clip (nailing 33 triples on the season), as well as her 76 percent free throw tally.

As she’s grown into one of the key cogs of the Tiger machine, Krebs has become much, much more than a shooter. She rebounds, passes and is becoming a team leader for the storied program. In addition to her scoring prowess, the junior added nearly three rebounds, two assists, and two steals per game for Warsaw.

What separates the daughter of Warsaw head coach Lenny Krebs is her ability to step up in big games, even in a season that resulted in multiple injury breaks was her performance versus Class 4-A opponents, where Kacilyn averaged nearly double digits despite being in and out of the lineup during the admittedly strange ‘COVID-19 season.’

She saved one of best performances of the year for last, too, as Krebs netted a season high of 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds in hard fought win over Northridge in the sectional semifinals. She also had four assists and four steals multiple times throughout the season.

“Kacilyn is finally allowing her skills to shine,” noted Lenny Krebs. “She is a kid who has grown up in the gym and is one of the most fundamental kids I have ever seen. She is a great shooter who is capable of scoring at all three levels. Her mid-range step back is one of her best shots. She really ended the year with a bang with strong games in sectional. She continued to stay confident and aggressive on the offensive end of the floor for the entire game.

“One of the most underrated parts of her game is her defense. She is always down and in position. Kacilyn used last spring’s shutdown to totally transform her body and it showed this year. I am looking forward to seeing what her senior season brings as I have no doubt it is going to be a great one.”

Kendal Miller, NorthWood

Kendal Miller, NorthWood

Kendal Miller has been one of the hardest workers in the history of the NorthWood Black Swish, and she’s now a member of the 2020-21 IFN All-Area First Team. That hard work all came to a head in the 2021 sectional semi-finals versus Tippecanoe Valley when the senior poured in 30 points, including six three-pointers, on the way to the Panthers’ improbable run to the sectional finals.

Add in the responsibilities she was given as junior (of the team that would win the 2020 IHSAA 3-A State Championship), Miller had always had a lot on her plate as the point guard for the Black Swish. Whenever people thought she couldn’t handle it, she continued to prove everyone wrong. She just continued to get results.

In addition to the 30 versus Tippecanoe Valley in the sectional semi-finals, she had seven rebounds versus Mishawaka Marian, six assists versus Concord, and a whopping eight steals versus Wawasee in the sectional’s opening round. Miller also finished first all-time in program history in free throw shooting by going 29-31 for a 94 percent clip for the season.

“Kendal is a determined leader and a basketball player that will find a way to succeed,” said NorthWood head coach Mark Heeter. “If that means scoring, she scores, if it means distributing the ball, she distributes, and if it means making a defensive stop, she stops someone. Every coach wants a player like Kendal Miller.”

Alea Minnich, NorthWood

Alea Minnich, NorthWood

It was Alea Minnich’s time to add her name to the stored NorthWood girls basketball record book in 2020-21 and to make the IFN All-Area First Team. After being in the Panther’s rotation from the time she was a freshman to becoming a focal point of the outside attack in her sophomore and junior seasons, Minnich broke out as a go-to player in coach Mark Heeter’s offense in her senior season, averaging 15.9 points per game.

Minnich also averaged seven rebounds and added more than two assists and two steals per game to lead the Black Swish attack. In the 2020 state championship season, Minnich set the all-time program record, as a junior, in free throw shooting for a program that has seen its share of outstanding players. In her senior season, she topped her previous record, making 80 of 90 tries at the charity stripe for an 89 percent clip this past season. She ranked among the top free throw shooters in the nation, per MaxPreps, ranking as high as third in season free throw percentage (based off attempts).

Her game highs include 24 points versus Tippecanoe Valley in the regular season, 13 rebounds versus Lakeland in the sectional championship, five assists versus Tippecanoe Valley in the sectional semi-finals, and five steals versus Mishawaka.

“Alea is just an athlete,” Heeter said. “She is strong, she is fast, and she makes plays. Alea usually drew the toughest defensive assignment and would make things difficult for that player, but Alea is also a scorer, rebounder, a distributor and a player that finds a way to make the team better.”

Abby Sanner, Warsaw

Abby Sanner, Warsaw

One thing that this writer has always been mindful of as a coach and journalist is that the tallest girl on the floor usually gets the most scrutiny and criticism, especially in Indiana high school girls basketball. The Warsaw Tigers center, Abby Sanner, is no different, but here’s the deal: Sanner is one of the best players in our area and Northern Indiana, regardless of height.

The ultra-improved junior has had to contend with the best post player for every team, every night. And, playing one of the top 50 schedules in the state, as head coach Lenny Krebs’ Tiger teams do consistently every year, that job becomes a challenging task. Sanner continues to understand that, improve in that environment, and embrace her role as the focal point of the Tigers’ inside game. She totaled double digit points in more than half of Warsaw’s games, and she shot over 50 percent from the field and 63 percent from the free throw line this past season.

Sanner’s selection to the IFN All-Area First Team is certainly well-earned, as she averaged 9.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game for the 18-6 Tigers. Warsaw’s squad finished with a .750 winning percentage that saw them challenge an NLC schedule, Penn, Fishers, Norwell, Homestead, Chesterton, North Judson and others.

Sanner had game highs of 20 points and 16 rebounds versus Merrillville, four assists versus North Judson, and three blocks in multiple games. Sanner also tallied double-digit rebounds in six other games for the Tigers. Sanner also showed up versus the best in the Northern Lakes Conference. In two games versus Goshen and their Indiana All-Star candidate Brynn Shoup-Hill, Sanner averaged 11 points and seven rebounds.

“Abby is a great kid who works hard and gets better each year,” Krebs said. “She can impact the game with her size on both ends of the floor. On offense, Abby creates so many mismatches for opposing teams that they are forced to help off other players, which in turn leaves her teammates open.

“Defensively, Abby plugs the middle of the lane and forces offensive players to take tough shots. The guards could apply more pressure on the perimeter knowing Abby is in the lane behind them. She rebounds well and when she elevates, she goes places other players cannot go. She is really starting to understand how strong she is and as she continues to learn the fine parts of the game she is going to become more of a force. “

All-IFN Honorable Mentions

Bre Wise, NorthWood; Bailie Stephens, Warsaw; Kendall Wayne, Warsaw; Jessi Calizo, LCA; Lily Ault, Tippecanoe Valley; Hayley Backus, Tippecanoe Valley; Lexia Hostrawser, Triton; Abbey Viers, Triton; Addy Viers, Triton; Danielle Jenkins, Wawasee; Emily Haines, Wawasee; Becca Smith, Wawasee

Posted In: Girl's Sports > Basketball