WARSAW — It’s safe to say that the Warsaw girls basketball team is enjoying itself. The faint memory of a 59-41 loss in Fort Wayne last December that sent the Lady Tigers to 0-9 remained as they prepared to host Carroll Wednesday night. Once again, this year’s ladies enjoyed the sweet taste of avenging a loss from as they thumped the visiting Chargers 65-46.
Dayton Groninger and Madi Graham provided a one-two punch that Carroll wanted nothing to do with. The duo combined for 44 points, 12 rebounds, seven steals and five assists. Groninger scored nine of the first 11 points for the Tigers. Her first half efforts helped the home team take a 29-24 lead into the locker room.
Coming out of the break Warsaw was finally able to shake the lingering Chargers with a 22-point effort in the third quarter. Warsaw scored 36 in the second half and held Carroll to 22. The Tigers really gained separation by getting to the foul line in what was an aggressive game. Warsaw was 26-32 from the charity stripe, Carroll was 1-3. The Tigers shot 16 free throws in each half, making 11 in the first and 15 in the second. Groninger and Graham were each 11-12 from the line as well.
“When teams are up on you like that and they’re pressing you, you have to make sure you’re attacking low, shoulder to their hip and going in strong,” said Warsaw head coach Michelle Harter. “Our girls really did a nice job of that tonight, not standing up but playing low and strong. They went in there and got the fouls called.”
After a shaky but victorious performance at Portage, Warsaw was looking to give a much cleaner effort against Carroll. Harter felt her team did that by simply playing their game.
“That’s one thing we’ve been talking to the girls about and I said it to them in pregame, just relax and come out and play ball,” Harter said. “It’s so much more fun when you’re just out their playing and taking the simple play, looking to attack the basket and taking good, high percentage shots. I thought we did a good job with that and a lot of it started on the defensive end.
“We talked about how at Portage that we didn’t come out with energy on the floor or on the bench. Everybody was quiet. We always say that a quiet gym is a losing gym. The girls picked it up tonight. They came out and were communicating offensively, defensively. I thought we handled Carroll’s man-to-man pressure really well, not attacking east and west but looking to go north and south.”
Six Tigers scored in total. Groninger led with 23, Graham had 21, Page Desenberg added 10. Groninger led the team with nine boards, Graham was tops with five steals. Desenberg had six rebounds and three steals of her own. Mariah Rivera led the team with three assists.
This senior group for the Tigers has been playing side-by-side since fourth grade. The girls are finally getting to reap the rewards as they now sit at 8-1 going into Northern Lakes Conference play by hosting Plymouth Saturday night. At the same point last season, Warsaw was 0-9. So, what’s different this year?
“We’re more of a team, I feel like,” began Desenberg. “We’re playing together, we’re playing like we used to. It’s a lot of fun. The underclassmen have helped us a ton. The energy, on the bench and on the floor, is completely different from last year.
“I think if we can just keep doing what we’re doing then we’ll be good for the rest of the season. We just have to keep playing as a team and we’ll be fine. We’ll just keep rolling, our momentum will take us where we want to go.”
One has to wonder if flipping the script from last year’s start is as enjoyable as it looks.
“Oh it’s so much fun,” Desenberg said with a big smile. “Revenge is so much fun.”
Warsaw and Plymouth are scheduled to tip at 7:30 p.m. at the Tiger Den.
Warsaw won the JV game 50-38. Maddi Ryman led all scorers with 29 points for Warsaw.