WINONA LAKE – The Warsaw girls basketball team worked its way into the No. 10 spot in this week’s Class 4-A poll.
The undefeated Tigers looked very worthy of their ranking Thursday night.
Host Warsaw tuned up for a huge conference road game Saturday night by throttling Marion 76-49 in a rough-and-tumble contest in the Orthopaedic Capital Center on the Grace College campus.
Senior star Lindsay Baker tied a career-high with 26 points, silky smooth senior Jennifer Walker-Crawford scored 17 and feisty senior Melanie Holladay added a dozen as the Tigers crushed the Giants.
Warsaw, in improving to 12-0, hit 26-of-34 free throws in the physical affair that saw Marion whistled for a pair of intentional fouls.
Julia Cardwell netted 14 points and Vironnica Drake 12 to pace the Giants, who drop to 8-5.
Warsaw now sets its sights on a Northern Lakes Conference clash at Northridge Saturday night. The Raiders, who were No. 12 in the Class 4-A poll this week, are 12-2 overall and 2-0 in NLC play, as are the Tigers. Warsaw, which has played just three road games so far this season, beat Northridge 54-41 last season.
“Our girls are excited about the start we’re off to and they know we have to come out ready to go Saturday night at Northridge,” said Warsaw coach Michelle Harter. “We have to be focused. We know it’s going to be a tough game. One of our goals was to win our own holiday tourney and we crossed that off. Another one is to win the NLC. I think we have confidence going on the road.”
Warsaw, which had not played since winning two games Dec. 27 to win its own Lady Tiger Classic, was ready to go Thursday night. The Tigers blazed to a 20-9 lead after the opening quarter as Marion had 10 turnovers versus the Warsaw press. Baker, who has signed to play at the University of Toledo, scored eight and Kentucky Wesleyan University recruit Walker-Crawford seven in the opening stanza. The hosts, who trailed just once at 3-0, closed the first period of play with a 10-0 run.
The Tigers had complete command of the contest by intermission. The hosts closed the second quarter with a 19-4 run to go into the lockerooom up 41-18 at the break. Baker, who was so efficient in hitting 8-of-14 field goals in the game (including 4-of-9 on 3-pointers) had 17 points at intermission. The Giants had 17 of their 23 turnovers in the opening half.
“We have to create intensity with our defense and our press is a big key,” Harter said. “The girls did a great job tonight making it difficult for Marion to find an open player to pass to. We’ve started charting our deflections and we had 36 tonight and that’s awesome.
“A big key Saturday will be for our guards to be strong with the ball. They were tonight and did an excellent job reading Marion’s defenses. On offense, we were patient and had good reads and made good passes.
“This is the type of play we knew Lindsay is capable of. She was just a terror tonight on defense. When she plays defense like that it relaxes her on offense.”
Harter saw her veteran team shoot 23-of-47 from the field, hold Marion to 18-of-54 and nab 17 steals with Nikki Grose grabbing five and Holladay four. She also saw her experienced squad, which starts three seniors and two juniors, keep its composure.
“The girls played strong tonight and showed their physical toughness,” noted Harter when asked about the physical nature of the contest. “We tell them don’t let the other team affect how you play your game. I think tonight says a lot for our experience how our girls played.”
Brooklyn Harrison scored nine points and Grose added six for the winners. Walker-Crawford led the Tigers with eight rebounds. Baker had six and Holladay and Sarah Ray each collected five.
Warsaw led by as many as 36 points at 70-34 in the final frame of the blowout win.
The Warsaw junior varsity team topped Marion 28-11. Megan Kratzsch scored eight points and Courtney Farling had six to lead the JV Tigers.
Warsaw plays at Northridge Saturday night. The JV game is scheduled to tip-off at 6 p.m. with the varsity tilt to follow.