WARSAW — The Lady Tigers have honed themselves into a pretty stingy defensive team at the midway point in the season. Triton’s Lady Trojans, on the other hand, have struggled to put the ball in the basket in stretches regardless of their opponent.
The combination made for a lopsided outcome Tuesday night at the Tiger Den, as host Warsaw held Triton to its lowest offensive production of the season while securing the Tigers’ largest margin of victory yet this year, 46-14.
“That’s been our talk all week is making sure we can maintain focus and intensity on the defensive end for 32 minutes,” said Warsaw coach Lenny Krebs. “If we’re going to compete with the Homesteads, if we’re going to compete with the Penns, if we’re going to compete with all those schools that we want to compete with… you have to maintain that defensive intensity for 32, and I guess the thing that I’m the most proud of is we kept it tonight. Even though that lead grew, if you watched us on the defensive end we were focused, we were intense, and that’s what I wanted to see.”
“One thing we talked about coming into the game was we were probably going to struggle a little offensively because of how good they are defensively. They affect what you do, and when you have trouble putting the ball in the basket anyway, it becomes a little more difficult,” said Triton coach Adam Heckaman.
“They’re very quick to the ball. When you’re quick to the ball and you make a team hurry a little bit more, a team that already struggles to shoot a little bit shoots a little bit worse and then you kind of get this end result.”
Warsaw allowed just one field goal in 13 attempts by the Trojans over the first half, keeping the guests off the scoreboard all the way until Hannah Wanemacher’s pull-up jumper from the wing at the 3:22 stop of the second quarter. The visitors didn’t fare much better in the second half, finishing 5 for 32 (15.6 percent) from the floor for the night at the Tiger Den.
But Triton is no slouch on the defensive end either, and the home team struggled to put the ball in the basket itself early against the Trojans’ zone, although hustle on the glass helped the hosts gain the advantage as the Tigers scored eight second-chance points off nine offensive rebounds in the first half. Halle Shipp and Emma Bohnenkamper helped stake their team to a 21-5 halftime lead with all of their offensive production before halftime — nine and seven points, respectively.
“We felt like defensively, we could play a pretty good game and hang around, and I thought we did that early on. But I just think just continuing to not be able to score kind of got us hanging our heads a little bit and feeling a little bit sorry for ourselves and then they took advantage of some things,” Heckaman said.
“I felt like for the first two and a half quarters — I know they were still 15 at the half, somewhere in that range — I felt like we were within striking distance to keep it close because of what we had done defensively, but like I said we’ve got to put the ball in the basket at some point.”
The Tigers made good use of Krebs’ pre-game advice after the break — essentially ‘If you can’t beat the zone, then beat it up the floor’ — and opened up their lead with a number of fast break buckets in the second half, both off the steal and the defensive rebound. Maddie Ryman’s triple from the top of the key following a Triton turnover pushed Warsaw out to a 21-point cushion with 4:19 still remaining in the third period. Shipp’s baseline drive and assist of a Kacy Bragg lay-in at the 5:48 stop of the fourth ballooned that lead out to 31, and Triton didn’t crack double figures until Nicole Sechrist’s layup on a Jaela Faulkner assist with only 4:25 remaining to play.
“You saw us starting to get some transition points, some easy looks. We struggled in the first half because they got set in their zone, and we couldn’t find an open shot,” explained Krebs. “We talked about before the game the easiest way to beat a zone is to beat it down the floor. That’s what our defense allowed us to do in the second half.”
Ryman led Warsaw offensively with 10 points as the only player to score in the double digits Tuesday. Bragg and Bohnenkamper each hauled in 10 rebounds as part of a 37-21 rebounding night by the Tigers, while Kaylee Patton handed out four assists for the home team, which won for the fifth time in its past six games.
Triton was paced by Sechrist’s six points and nine rebounds as Wanemacher was limited to three points on just four shots and 9:38 of play after sitting out the Trojans’ Hoosier North Athletic Conference win at Pioneer Saturday recovering from an ankle injury. Triton slips to 6-9 with its fourth loss in the last five games following a three-game win streak Nov. 25-29. The Trojans take on HNAC foe Caston Thursday before taking a break for the holidays then resuming play at Oregon-Davis Jan. 3.
Warsaw improves to 9-3, meanwhile with Norwell at home Friday, then a home tournament Dec. 27. It’s a strong first half of the season for the Tigers, especially in Krebs’ first year at the helm and after losing five starters to graduation last season. But the team’s focus isn’t on wins and losses, says Krebs.
“We’re happy with where we’re at, but we’re not content. I hope that people are leaving here going ‘Man, the team is better. They keep getting better,’ and that’s been our focus the entire time,” he said. “At no point in time have we talked about the record. We’re not going to talk about it; we’re going to talk abut being better today than we were yesterday.”