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Written By StaceyPageOnline / Sports on Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Braxton Minix and Warsaw’s boys basketball team once again had a party-like atmosphere en route to a regional finals appearance. (File photos by Nick Goralczyk, Mike Deak and Scott Davidson)

WARSAW – Our journey into our top teams of the year starts with the back half of our Ink Free News Top 10. Three of Warsaw’s flag bearers are again on the list as is a pair of exciting clubs from the Three Rivers Conference.

10. Running Away – Seven was the magic number for the Warsaw boys track program in 2017.

But there was nothing lucky about this group of talented Tigers as they continued to dominate the Northern Lakes Conference and the sectional once again.

Coach Matt Thacker’s team claimed its seventh straight NLC Meet title on its home track and then went to Goshen and won the sectional championship for the seventh straight year.

The Tigers posted yet another perfect 7-0 mark in NLC dual meet action to bump its winning streak up to 48 in a row.

Warsaw finished just a handful of points behind Penn in the Kokomo Regional.

The 4 X 100 relay team, which tied a school record in the sectional, led the way for the Tigers at the State Finals. The team of Rane Kilburn, Will McGarvey, Tristan Larsh and Alijah Wade placed 13th in the season finale at IU.

Larsh was 16th in the 200 at State with Zeb Hernandez 20th in the 1,600.

The quartet of Kilburn, Wade, Keegan Larsh and Ridley Lemon earned a 21st place finish in the 4 X 400 relay event at State.

9. A Standard Of Success – In what has been a very deep and talented girls basketball conference over the past four years, Tippecanoe Valley has been the meter stick.

In its third straight undefeated Three Rivers Conference season, the Lady Vikes extended its conference win streak to 28 games as its senior class cemented its place in history. The team then went on to win its third straight sectional title at West Noble before falling to Fort Wayne Concordia in the regional semis.

Valley went 22-5 during the 2016-17 campaign, splitting its two games at the Hall of Fame Tournament in New Castle, then coming back north a day later to win the Lakeland Tournament.

The senior class for Valley – Anne Secrest, Meredith Brouyette, Hannah Dunn and Taneisha Brown – wrapped up their years with the program winners of 85 games, the most in team history for a class, and Secrest graduates as the all-time leading scorer as well as owner of several other statistical honors. Secrest would be nominated to play in a host of postseason All-Star games and herself, Brouyette and Dunn all signed to continue playing basketball in college.

8. What A Racquet – Warsaw’s girls tennis lineup has been an overwhelmingly young one the past two seasons, but that hasn’t stopped the Lady Tigers from exceeding their program’s lofty expectations.

Warsaw cruised to its 17th straight sectional championship on May 19, then followed up with a repeat regional championship at Culver Academies the following week. There wasn’t a whole lot of suspense for the Tigers until the regional final.

At their home sectional, they rolled through Tippecanoe Valley 5-0 in a semifinal that took just over an hour to complete, then surrendered a total of seven games on five courts to challenger Whitko in a championship match moved inside due to rain. They were dominant once more in a 5-0 regional-opening win over Rochester, then demonstrated their growth in a narrow 3-2 reprisal of Northern Lakes Conference rival Plymouth for the tourney title.

Freshman Alyssa Zellers clinched Warsaw its decisive third match point in that dramatic regional final, but first the 1 doubles tandem of Athena Schlitt and Colette Smith collected their first win in three tries versus the NLC champion Lady Pilgrims.

Like it did in 2016, Warsaw closed with a 5-0 loss to South Bend St. Joseph at the Culver Academies Semistate, but there was growth even in that defeat. And the especially good news for the team is that seven of its top eight are expected to return next spring.

“We’ve had a great season. The girls were excited about it,” said head coach Rick Orban after semistate. “They played well this year. They came through in clutch times. This team, couldn’t be more proud of them. Yeah, we’re going to miss Athena, but when you say one name that you’re going to miss, it bodes well for the following year.”

7. Finally, Some Respect – Whitko had been very close to breaking through as a softball program in recent years, and finally got over the hump in 2017.

Whitko had a season for the ages, going 24-6 and not only winning its first-ever sectional title at Oak Hill (the celebration went well into the night), but then winning the regional at Winamac and making the semi-state championship game before losing to top-ranked Elwood in the final.

Ellie Snep, just a sophomore, was awesome in the circle for the Wildcats, going 20-4 overall with a 1.48 ERA with 171 strikeouts in 175.1 innings of work. Snep’s mastery of Wawasee in April was impressive, giving Whitko it’s first-ever Wawasee Invite title, but then she outdueled Brooklyn Howard and Three Rivers Conference champions Manchester in the Oak Hill Sectional semis. In the sectional championship against the hosts, Snep threw a no-hitter while Anna Ousley knocked in the winning run in the eighth. A week later, Andrea Snavley had a game-winning hit to beat South Adams in the LaVille Semi-state semis.

Whitko graduates just three seniors from the team in Snavley, Riley Insley and Kennedy Krull.

6. Making History – The Warsaw boys basketball program has a long and storied tradition of success.

This year’s edition of the Tigers put the finishing touches on an achievement never done by Warsaw or any other program in the Northern Lakes Conference.

Coach Doug Ogle’s veteran team, which included eight seniors, went unbeaten in NLC play for the third straight year. Warsaw’s run of three straight 7-0 marks in league action is the first time that feat has been accomplished in conference history.

The Tigers finished 18-10 overall and won a second straight Class 4-A sectional title before losing to Merrillville in a regional final.

Warsaw was led by star Kyle Mangas, who earned a spot on the Indiana All-Star team. Guard Mangas averaged 22.6 points-per-game as he scored 633 points on the season, the fifth highest single-season total in program history.

The Tigers boasted eight seniors in Mangas, Jeremy David, Jaceb Burish, Braxton Minix, Sam Miller, Shane Powers, Kyle Skeans and Aaron Sandoval.

Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order): NorthWood Boys Basketball; NorthWood Girls Golf; Wawasee Wrestling; Whitko Baseball; Whitko Volleyball

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