WARSAW – Warsaw girls basketball coach Michelle Harter makes no bones about what her talented team hopes to accomplish during the 2012-13 season.
“We want to win the NLC (Northern Lakes Conference) and we want to win a sectional championship,” said Harter of two big goals this campaign.
The Tigers, who come off a 16-5 finish a year ago, have the ingredients to make a run at championships this season. Warsaw, despite owning 15 sectional titles in the very successful history of its girls program, has not won a postseason crown since the 2003-04 season.
“When we play the way we are capable of, we’re hard to beat,” Harter said. “The girls are working hard and they know what it takes to be successful. We have experience back and that helps tremendously.”
Warsaw welcomes back one of the top players around in backcourt standout Lindsay Baker. The 5-11 senior star, who has committed to play at the University of Toledo, averaged a team-high 14.4 points-per-game a season ago.
“Lindsay is definitely an All-Star candidate,” said Harter of her three-year starter. “She does so much more than just score. She plays defense, she’s a leader and like a second coach on the floor. She’s worked hard. I expect the same things from her as we got last year.”
Baker, who earned NLC Player of the Year honors last season, did it all for the Tigers her junior season. She also averaged 6.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.6 steals per game while shooting 84 percent from the free throw line and 45 percent on 3-pointers. Baker was a member of the Indiana Junior All-Star team for the 2011-12 season.
The Tigers, who tied for second with NorthWood and Northridge in the NLC at 5-2 last year, also welcome back starter Jennifer Walker-Crawford. The 6-1 senior guard/post player averaged about seven points-per-game last season. Also penciled in to start is 6-0 junior Nikki Grose on the interior. She averaged about five points-per-game as a sophomore.
“I want us to be a little more consistent offensively this year,” said Harter, whose team averaged 55 points-per-game last season. “A big key for us will be to continue to attack the basket and then make our free throws. I want us to have a strong inside-outside attack and a balanced offense.
“I really hope our defense carries us. We’re really stressing that this year. We have some long girls up top and hopefully our defense leads to our offense. I was very pleased with our defense last year.”
The Tigers, who graduated three starters in Sarah Heagy (second leading scorer), Lauren Burish and Madison Davis, allowed just 40.5 points-per-game last year.
Harter said that a trio of players are competing for the final two starting spots in the backcourt. That group includes 5-8 junior Eryn Leek, 5-9 senior Melanie Holladay and 5-7 junior Brooklyn Harrison. The roster also includes seniors Sarah Ray and Gabby Monroy and sophomores Vicki Harris and Pam Miller.
The Norrhern Lakes Conference should be as tough as always. Defending champion Elkhart Memorial went 6-1 last year and won its ninth straight Class 4-A sectional championship in going 20-6 under first-year coach Steve Scott. The Crimson Chargers welcome back eight letter winners, led by junior star Khadijah Moore. Northridge returns all of its starters from a 19-6 team and NorthWood has eight letter winners back from a 22-4 squad. Northridge is No. 9 in Class 4-A in the preseason poll (Warsaw was No. 12) and NorthWood is at No. 3 in Class 3-A.
“It’s always a battle every game in the NLC,” said Harter. “Northridge has everyone back this year, Memorial is very quick and athletic, Goshen has improved a lot and NorthWood is always going to be good.”
Warsaw hosts Huntington North Saturday night in the season opener. The Tigers play their first three contests at home, including Fort Wayne Luers (Nov. 13) and Tippecanoe Valley (Nov. 16). The NLC opener is Dec. 8 at home versus Plymouth.