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Written By Ink Free News / Sports on Saturday, November 9, 2019

Brielle Harrison drives on Elkhart Central’s Ayzyana Billings-Tiller in last year’s Northridge Sectional. Harrison returns to a veteran Lady Tigers lineup in 2019-20. (File photo by James Costello)

WARSAW — Last season’s narrow sectional semifinal loss to Elkhart Central didn’t sit well with Warsaw’s girls basketball team. With much of the team back after a productive offseason, the Lady Tigers are ready to give it another go in 2019-20.

“These kids have worked hard over the last year. They left sectional last year with a bitter taste in their mouth, and they are determined to give themselves a chance to win a championship,” said head coach Lenny Krebs.

“We have grown closer together as a team, and our culture has never been better. We are also a year older, a year wiser and a year stronger. I am excited to see what this year has in store for us. We have a tough schedule, but I have no doubt the girls are up for the challenge.”

Two full-time starters are back with the team in senior forward Brielle Harrison, who averaged 6.5 points and 5.2 rebounds last season, and junior guard Kensie Ryman, who was good for 3.5 points, two rebounds and 2.8 assists per game over the 15-9 campaign. Senior guard Kaylee Patton returns to the squad after sitting out the last nine games of her junior season with an ACL tear. Patton was averaging nine points, 2.7 rebounds and two assists before suffering her injury in the Lady Tiger Tournament semifinals, and Krebs and the Tigers are excited to have her back. Also back are sophomore center Abby Sanner following a promising freshman season that saw her average eight points and five rebounds an outing and really hit her stride toward the end of the year with double-figure points production in six of her last eight games, as well as sophomore guard Kacilyn Krebs, a 21-game starter who finished last season with five points per game and a 27 percent three-point shooting average. Adding to the mix are junior Audrey Grimm and sophomore Bailie Stephens.

It’s a group that has plenty of size — five of those eight are listed at 5’8” or taller, including the 6’2” Sanner — and inside-outside balance to match. That gives Krebs and his staff plenty of flexibility in determining which lineup to use in a given game or in-game situation.

“We have a group of eight girls on the varsity team and they will all play a key role in our success. The role of each player could change from game to game based on who we are playing and how we are playing. We will need all eight girls to be ready each and every night,” said Krebs.

“Our biggest team strength will be our ability to put multiple lineups on the floor. We can play big or we can play small. We can play a lineup in which Kaylee Patton is our smallest player on the floor or a lineup where she is the biggest player. We have a nice mixture of size to go with a group of guards that can shoot the ball.”

It’s also a driven group, but that can sometimes be a mixed bag. Krebs is hoping his Tigers can maintain a next-play mentality and not dwell on any mistakes.

“The biggest challenges we are going to have to overcome can be found between our ears. We have a group of girls who are perfectionists and want to please — tough for them to move on from their mistakes quickly. We must learn to do so,” he said.

A tough schedule that includes Norwell in Saturday’s afternoon opener, as well as Crown Point, Merrillville, Penn and Fishers will test the Tigers but should prepare them for challenging fields in the Northern Lakes Conference and the postseason. They’re hoping to improve on last season’s second-place conference finish and to deliver the program its first sectional championship since 2015, but they also understand it’s a day-to-day process.

“We would be lying if we said we didn’t want to compete for the NLC title and for a sectional title. Every team in the state of Indiana will tell you the same thing — they want to compete for championships,” Krebs said. “However those championships are a result of approaching each and every day with the mentality that we want to be better today than we were yesterday. Our goal is to win the day — go 1-0 today by being a better player at the end of the day than we were at the beginning. We must continue to focus on the process and not the result, the results will take care of themselves.”

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