WARSAW SPRINGS INTO TITLE GAME
Ink Free News / Sports on Saturday, February 6, 2021
By Nick Goralczyk
GOSHEN – The more things change, the more they stay the same.
After a year loaded with unprecedented circumstances and the “new normal”, one thing will feel familiar for two local girls basketball programs. After a thrilling 45-44 game in last year’s sectional title matchup, Warsaw and Penn are set to meet again with sectional glory on the line. Both the Tigers and Kingsmen picked up wins during Friday’s semifinals of the 2021 IHSAA Girls Basketball Sectional 4 Tournament to set up a title game rematch.
Warsaw 36, Northridge 28
It was a historic night for the Warsaw girls basketball program, just maybe not in every way the Tigers were hoping for on their way to a semifinal win.
For just the sixth time in program history Warsaw was held scoreless in a quarter. In what was a less-than-explosive first half the Tigers found themselves trailing 7-4 at the break, scoring zero points in the second quarter.
Make no mistake, there was very good defense being played in the first half, but there was also a lot of pain in watching Warsaw finish its offensive possessions. The Tigers had no luck, no help, no bounces go their way. Shots went up and rolled around the rim only to fall back out. It was brutal. Tiger faithful could be seen physically writhing around as shot after shot refused to fall for the orange and black.
The first half of the sectional semifinal had all the offensive vibes of a late November junior varsity game. Again, there was good defense and that should not be overlooked. But regardless, it was baffling to watch the offensive performance from two of the top programs in the Northern Lakes Conference with a combined 33-12 record.
Thankfully something changed at halftime.
The Tigers came out reenergized, refocused and relentless from beyond the arc. After missing all six of its attempts from deep in the first half, Warsaw went 6-9 in the second half. Three of those makes came from Kensie “Just Call Her Ray Allen” Ryman in the third quarter. Or is that reference too dated? Just call her Steph Curry? Damian Lillard? Either way, the senior was feeling it from deep.
Ryman’s hot hand got the Warsaw offense going, most importantly it got Kacilyn Krebs going. Krebs sank a trio of threes of her own in the second half and gave the Tigers their first lead of the game, 15-13, with a bucket at 2:34 in the third quarter. Northridge would quickly tie things up but never regained the lead. Warsaw led 20-17 going into the fourth.
A quick three from Eva Fisher tied things 20-20 at the beginning of the fourth but Krebs hit back-to-back triples to put Warsaw up 26-20. A basket from Audrey Grimm capped an 8-0 run for the Tigers, the largest run for either team in the game. Fisher led Northridge with 14 points while Krebs led all scorers with 16 points.
Warsaw (18-5), which used a patient approach in upsetting Goshen Tuesday night, once again found itself needing to slow things down to close out the Raiders. The Tigers used solid ball movement and hit most of its free throws down the stretch to close out a Northridge team that was averaging over 54 points per game coming into the contest.
For the second game in a row Warsaw was faced with a daunting challenge against a quality opponent and the Tigers passed despite stretches of bad offense.
After the contest Warsaw head coach Lenny Krebs made a call back to his postgame comments from Tuesday’s victory, “If you had told me that I was going to score four points in a half and get shutout and win a basketball game, I would have said you were crazy once again.”
Krebs then went on and said what everyone watching was thinking about his team’s first half performance.
“I thought, in the first half, we were just in too much of a panic mode offensively,” explained the coach. “You saw a lot of panicked shots. We’re just not efficient shooters when we’re panicked.”
Krebs credited Northridge’s defensive effort before explaining what changed for the Tigers after the break.
“We made some nice adjustments and came out and started running some ball screen offense concepts, slowed down our cuts and worried about getting out feet set to get our shots off. Kensie Ryman stepped up, Kacilyn (Krebs) hit a couple and we just fed off that momentum. This team is one that just feeds off of positive momentum.”
Warsaw’s scoring was rounded out by Ryman’s 10 points while Abby Sanner added five, Kendall Wayne scored three and Grimm tallied two. Grimm led all players with nine rebounds as Warsaw won the battle on the boards 40-28. The Tigers are undefeated this season when winning the rebounding battle.
Warsaw will look to keep the positive momentum flowing into Saturday’s sectional championship. The Tigers will take on 4-A No. 4 Penn (19-3). The Kingsmen defeated Warsaw 61-30 back in November and, of course, walked away with a 45-44 win over the Tigers in the 2020 sectional championship. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Goshen High School.
Penn 46, Elkhart 26
Penn once again ran away with its contest. The Kingsmen hit six three pointers on their way to a 20-point victory.
Penn was led by 16 points from Kaitlyn Costner. Costner has led the Kingsmen in each of its two postseason games, scoring 17 against Concord on Tuesday evening. Elkhart was led by De’Mour Watson’s 11-point effort.
The win extends Penn’s winning streak to five games with its last loss coming on January 16 at Lawrence North.