WARSAW – Coach Michelle Harter admitted she raised her voice at halftime Wednesday night to her Warsaw girls basketball team after a subpar performance in the first 16 minutes.
The message was received loud and clear by her talented Tiger team.
Undefeated Warsaw responded like a veteran team in the second half to flatten Fort Wayne Carroll 62-43 on Pink Out Night at WCHS.
The Class 4-A No. 10 Tigers remained perfect in pink by outscoring the Chargers 41-17 in the final half, including 20-7 in the pivotal third period of play, to improve to 14-0 on the season.
The terrific trio of senior Lindsay Baker (20 points), junior Nikki Grose (18 points and 11 rebounds) and senior Jennifer Walker-Crawford (13 points) led the way for Warsaw. Senior Melanie Holladay turned in a strong all-around effort with eight rebounds, four assists and four steals for the unbeaten Tigers.
Warsaw forced Carroll, which falls to 5-9 with its fourth straight loss, into 27 turnovers.
The Tigers trailed 26-21 at halftime after seeing the Chargers close the opening half with a 14-4 run. Carroll, which was coming off a 70-40 loss at powerful Norwell Friday night, hit four 3-pointers in outscoring the hosts 20-9 in the second quarter.
Warsaw wasted no time in taking charge to open the second half. The Tigers quickly seized command with a 12-0 run in the first 1:41 of the third period. Warsaw got four straight three-point plays, three from Baker on a pair of treys and a conventional one, and one from Grose to take charge with the dominating stretch. Carroll did not score the first 2:20 of the third stanza and did not make their first field goal of the second half until 2:10 remained in the third quarter.
“I raised my voice at halftime and I was not pleased with our effort in the first half and I know our girls weren’t either,” said Harter, whose team trailed at intermission for just the second time all season. “They came out in the second half with intensity and fire. They were not going to allow a poor performance in the second half on this special night (Pink Out).
“They came out and were strong with the ball, attacked the basket and finished. They executed much better in the second half and we did a much better job dictating the tempo of the game with our defense by forcing turnovers. That’s why we had a 24-point turnaround in the second half. They won all the 50-50 balls in the first half. We got those in the second half and that made a big difference.
“Those three (Lindsay, Nikki and Jennifer) have done a consistent job all year for us. Tonight, I thought Mel Holladay was the one who played well the whole game for us. She stepped up in her role and did an awesome job for us.”
The Tigers, who won 58-26 at Carroll last year, have had just one win by single-digits this year (53-45 at Whitko). Warsaw entered play Wednesday night with an average winning margin of 19.8 points-per-game.
Harter, whose experienced team has just six regular-season games left before sectional play, didn’t think a rough first half was such a bad thing for her team.
“I do think this was a good wake-up call for us,” Harter said. “It was good to be challenged in the first half like that. We see that we can’t just come out and go through the motions. We have to come out ready and play like we can from the start every game.”
Warsaw closed the opening quarter Wednesday night with an 8-2 run to lead 12-6. Sophomore Madison Peterson, whole led Carroll with 15 points, scored eight in the second stanza to vault her team to its 26-21 halftime advantage. Baker scored nine points and Grose seven in the third period as the Tigers rallied to a 41-33 lead. Carroll would get no closer than that in the final stanza as Walker-Crawford nine points in the last frame.
Warsaw shot 21-of-52 from the field, including 6-of-15 on threes. The Tigers were 14-of-19 from the free throw line, including 9-of-13 in a much more aggressive second half offensively. Carroll finished just 16-of-49 from the field (5-of-16 on threes) and 6-of-8 from the line.
The game featured the Tigers wearing completely pink uniforms on Pink Out Night. The evening, which also included things such as pink T-shirts for sale and a silent auction, was to raise breast cancer awareness and funds for mammograms for low income women through the Good Samaritan Fund.
The Pink Out Night was not the only special part of Wednesday evening in the Tiger Den. Bryce Lippe, a WCHS sophomore, performed an outstanding rendition of The National Anthem prior to the varsity game.
Warsaw won the junior varsity game 40-31. Erin Clemens scored 12 points and Courtney Farling and Vicki Harris each had eight for coach Mindy Stookey’s team. Monya Cohen led the Carroll JV squad with seven points.
Warsaw, which leads the Northern Lakes Conference at 3-0, hosts league foe Goshen Saturday night. Carroll plays at New Haven Saturday night.