GOSHEN – The Warsaw girls basketball team found itself on the right “Page” at exactly the right time Saturday night.
Gutty and determined Page Desenberg came up with two big time plays late to lift her team to a huge Northern Lakes Conference win at Goshen.
Desenberg did the dirty work in the final frantic seconds and Madi Graham drained clutch free throws as the Tigers rallied for a thrilling 37-33 victory in the physical league clash.
Warsaw closed the game on a 10-0 run over the final 3:07 to erase a six-point deficit and earn a much-needed road win. Graham hit 3-4 free throws in the final 6.6 seconds, including a pair with 1.9 ticks, left to ice the win.
Desenberg, whose only basket of the game came on a rebound putback to pull her team within 33-32 with 1:16 to play, made the hustle plays that allowed Graham to seal the deal. The feisty junior first drew a charge on Tahya Bruce with 7.1 seconds to play. Graham then hit the first of two free throws with 6.6 seconds to play to make it 35-33. Graham then misfired on the second free throw try, but Desenberg wrestled the ball away from a Goshen player on the rebound and kicked the ball out to Graham. Graham, then as cool as the other side of the pillow, hit two tosses for the final points.
Desenberg, who spent the majority of the rough-and-tumble game that resembled a WWE match diving to the hardwood, proudly wore a huge bag of ice on her knee after the win.
“We needed this,” said Desenberg, her postgame smile lighting up the dingy Goshen gym. “We played as a team and we pulled it together at the end. We’ve made tremendous steps since early in the year. I think our tough schedule that we have played paid off tonight too.”
Junior Desenberg, who is listed at a generous 5-8 on the Warsaw roster, more than atoned for missing a pair of free throws with 14.8 seconds to play and her team clinging to a one-point lead.
“I missed those two free throws and I told myself that I had to do something to help my team,” Desenberg explained. “I said that we can’t lose like this. Honestly, I don’t care about points. My defense is how I roll. For my size, I know that I have to prove myself inside. Bruises are my trophies. I know when I win the battle on the inside like tonight that makes me proud.”
The Tigers won this one on toughness, both physical and mental, and their work at the line. Warsaw hit 19-27 from the stripe, including scoring 13 of their 17 points in the fourth quarter from the line. Goshen was 0-5 from the line on the night.
Junior Dayton Groninger scored 15 points, including a huge nine in the final period of play, to lead Warsaw. Junior Graham finished with eight points as the Tigers improved to 7-13 overall and moved to 4-1 in the NLC.
Junior Aylissa Trosper popped in 15 points, including 13 in the second half, to lead Goshen. The hosts fall to 14-4 overall and 3-2 in league play and see their five-game winning streak snapped.
“It came down to our girls staying together as a team tonight and trusting each other,” said Warsaw coach Michelle Harter, whose team has no seniors. “I think that the tough schedule that we have played had a big part in our mental toughness tonight to get this win.
“The girls stepped up late and got one defensive stop at a time. They stepped up and matched Goshen’s physical play. This is a big win for us, especially on the road. It should give our confidence a big boost.
“Teams need glue girls, who do the little things that mean so much to their team and their coaches. That’s Page for us. She just stepped up huge at the end to draw that charge and then come up with that rebound. And Madi hit big free throws and so did Emma (Bohnenkamper). We’ve battled all year missing some free throws at key times. Tonight we showed a lot of mental toughness and made them.”
Warsaw, which has went 7-4 after an 0-9 start, led 13-6 at halftime as Goshen went scoreless in the second quarter. The Tigers closed the half on a 9-0 run. Goshen responded in the third period as Trosper scored seven points to give her team a 21-20 lead entering the final frame. The hosts then hit four treys, including two by Trosper, in the fourth period to take a 33-27 lead on a triple by Ashton Ellis with 3:07 remaining.
Sophomore Bohnenkamper, who hit two free throws with 32.2 seconds left to put her team ahead for good at 34-33, finished with five points. Kenzie Welk scored four points, Mariah Rivera three and Desenberg two.
Warsaw, which beat Goshen 44-37 last year, is tied with NorthWood in second place in the NLC at 4-1. Northridge leads the league at 5-0 after beating NorthWood 44-39 Saturday night.
Warsaw and Goshen both will play in the Class 4-A Goshen Sectional, which begins on Feb. 2.
Warsaw won the junior varsity game 37-24. Maddie Ryman had 12 points, while Kennedy Patton scored eight and Kenzie Martz six for the winners. Jocelyn Walters had 12 points and Nyla Dean eight for Goshen.
Warsaw hosts Concord next Saturday night. Goshen hosts Mishawaka Tuesday night.