WARSAW – Poise and pressure.
The young Warsaw girls basketball team used plenty of both Saturday night to open its season with a win.
The host Tigers never were rattled despite a slow start in turning back Huntington North 47-41.
Dayton Groninger, one of three sophomores in the starting lineup for Warsaw Saturday night, netted a game-high 17 points to lead the way.
Madi Graham, another one of the seven sophomores on the varsity roster, scored 10 points and senior Jodie Carlson nine for the Tigers.
Warsaw used its guard-heavy, dose of pressure defense to force the Vikings into 23 turnovers on the night.
The Tigers also were 10-13 from the line, including a clutch 6-7 in the final half. North, which defeated Warsaw 37-26 in the season opener a year ago, went just 3-7 from the stripe, including only 1-5 in the second half.
Warsaw, despite its youth, did not panic despite falling down by as many nine points (13-4) in the opening period.
“I thought the girls did not get down or panic when we got in a hole early tonight,” said Warsaw coach Michelle Harter. “They showed some maturity. They trusted each other, had confidence and said we’re going to be okay.
“I think there were some nerves early for us and the excitement of finally playing against someone else other than ourselves in practice. They adjust and really relaxed in the second, third and fourth quarters. They battled back.
“Our sophomores are confident and have played a lot of basketball together. We definitely have a lot of things to work on from tonight.”
The Vikings led 13-6 after the first quarter as Madi Canaday scored six of her team-high 15 points in the opening frame.
The Tigers trailed 18-10 midway through the second period before Groninger warmed up. The guard drained 11 of her team’s 12 points in the quarter to pull the hosts within 20-18 at halftime.
“Dayton is a scorer and she didn’t quit shooting when she missed a couple early,” said Harter. “Then she adjusted and attacked the basket.”
The Tigers took their first lead at 22-20 early in the third period on a driving bucket by the aggressive Graham. Warsaw’s guards used dribble penetration to attack in the third period en route to a 36-28 lead with an 18-8 edge in the pivotal period.
“We told the girls one big thing at half was that we could not continue to dribble east and west, we had to turn the corner and attack them,” Harter remarked. “The girls adjusted, were aggressive and did just that.
“We also were a little hesitant with our press in the first half. In the second, we got some good traps and deflections out of it and some easy opportunities to score.”
The Vikings, who started both of its seniors Saturday night, did pull within 43-39 late in the contest. Graham then hit a pair of clutch free throws and Kilee Slone a big bucket in the final 38.5 seconds to seal the win.
Groninger went 5-10 from the field, including 2-4 on threes, and was 5-6 at the line. The 5-10 guard also led her team with six rebounds. Carlson scored all nine of her points in the second half, including two big treys.
Senior Pam Miller had five points and five rebounds, Erin Clemens four points and Slone two.
Warsaw, which went 10-10 a year ago after starting the season 2-7, shot 16-45 from the field and did have 19 turnovers.
Junior guard Canady was the lone Viking in double figures with 15 points. Huntington North was just 17-39 from the field in the loss.
The Warsaw junior varsity team used a huge second half to win 44-34. The JV Tigers outscored the Vikings 25-6 in the final half.
Alyssa Atkins led the JV winners with 17 points. Kenzie Welk had 11 and Mariah Rivera 10 for Warsaw.
Warsaw (1-0) hosts Fort Wayne Luers and Huntington North (0-1) hosts Carroll (Allen) Tuesday night.