WARSAW – For the second year in a row, one of the most humble yet fierce athletes in the area has emerged as our Ink Free News Player of the Year.
Tippecanoe Valley senior Sophie Bussard tops our list for the second time, exhibiting much of the same athletic and spirited leadership that earned her the honor last winter. Bussard has helped the Lady Vikings to a fantastic season, finishing 15-6 in the regular season and fighting for a TRC title the final day of the slate, as well as guiding a very raw group of young players along.
Our IFN Girls Basketball All-Area Teams have several players that reflect a similar leadership of Bussard, playing hard-nosed basketball on the court and setting the example away from the crowds and hoopla. Without further adieu, our selections for the 2018-19 IFN Girls Basketball All-Area Teams.
IFN First Team
Sophie Bussard, Tippecanoe Valley – Heightened expectations didn’t slow down Bussard in her final year with the Vikes. Bussard was a top 20 scorer in the state while teams sold out trying to slow her down, knocking down 21.4 points per game, ranking 19th in Indiana per MaxPreps. The combo guard dropped 35 points twice in wins over Logansport and North Miami, and eclipsed her average 10 times. What’s not shown in her statlines, which she led Valley in nearly every offensive and defensive category, are the opportunities it created for her teammates to step up, and Valley enjoyed a maturation of several girls primed to continue the team’s standard of success.
Kenzie Bergman, NorthWood – Bergman made a senior year of hitting big shots for the Panthers. Her hot hand against both LaVille and Triton netted 17 points to help NorthWood to wins, and her 13 points led to a big road win at Tippecanoe Valley. Most recently Bergman dropped four treys in a win over Warsaw on senior night. Bergman’s defensive work helped her stand out even more, recording at least one steal in all but four of NorthWood’s 23 games, including eight against Mishawaka and six against Elkhart Memorial. For the season, the fiery guard averaged over nine points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Maddy Payne, NorthWood – The multi-dimensional NorthWood lineup saw Maddy Payne continue to command attention in the middle. It could be argued teams sold out defensively on Payne, giving more looks to the likes of Kenzie Bergman and Kate Rulli to get more shots. Payne still excelled, posting over 12 points and five rebounds a night in taking that next step as a junior. Her season-high 23 points and six rebounds helped the Panthers to a win over Merrillville at the Banker’s Classic, which the Panthers would go on to win the title. Payne also hung 20-plus points in wins over LaVille and Columbia City, and despite a loss to Northridge in the NLC tussle, she recorded 17 points, eight rebounds and six steals.
Maddie Ryman, Warsaw – Sharpshooter Maddie Ryman has had a productive senior season with Warsaw. The 5-6 guard is averaging a team-high 12.6 points per game, doing the majority of her damage from beyond the arc as part of a revamped long range attack by the Lady Tigers in 2018-19. In total, the team has put up a school-record 352 three-point attempts, and Ryman has been at the forefront of that strategy, canning 32 of 116 (27.6 percent) shots from deep and moving up to second place on the all-time three-pointer list for Warsaw girls basketball with 74 made triples over her career. But while she may have the green light to shoot, she’s far from a selfish player, having served up another team-high 61 assists for an average of better than 2.77 per game over 22 starts with the Tigers.
Abby Sanner, Warsaw – Although Warsaw may be using a more prolific long range attack than in years past, the Lady Tigers are still getting it done in the interior, too, and a big part of the reason for that is freshman post player Abby Sanner. The 6-1 frosh is leading her team off the glass with 5.25 rebounds an outing, and she has maneuvered her way into third place on this year’s squad in points per game with 8.4. What makes her scoring stats all the more impressive is the efficiency with which the first-year Tiger has scored her points, converting at an eye-popping 69.3 percent from the floor. As you’d expect from a freshman, she’s been getting better and better, too — she closed the regular season having scored in double figures in three of the last four games, including a season-high 21 points with eight rebounds in a narrow overtime win at Concord, back on Jan. 18.
IFN Second Team
Tori Calizo, Lakeland Christian Academy – When Hope Fancil graduated from LCA last spring, she took 718 career points with her and left the Lady Cougars without a clear offensive leader. Fortunately for coach Allison Kauffman, she didn’t have far to look to replace her as junior combo player Tori Calizo has stepped into that role nicely. She leads her team both in scoring with 12 points per game and in rebounding with eight caroms a night. She owns three double-double outings this season and has just been a steady producer for the Cougars night in and night out. One of the highlights of LCA’s season so far was the team’s championship reprisal at their home Cougar Classic Tournament back in December. Calizo finished that tournament with a combined 43 points over three games, earning tourney MVP honors along the way.
Anna Reimink, Lakeland Christian Academy – If Tori Calizo has been LCA’s biggest offensive producer, Anna Reimink has still been the engine that makes the Cougars’ offense go. The senior point guard has been productive in the scoring department, too, with eight points a game, but she’s often been content to play the role of facilitator from the point, passing out 57 assists in 22 games played, with five or more in three of the team’s final five regular-season outings. But it has often been defense that has made LCA’s offense go, and Reimink has certainly been at the tip of the spear in that department with 93 steals over the course of the year — including a season-high 11 during a win over Cornerstone Christian in early January — for an average of 4.2 of the team’s 13.5 steals per game.
Kate Rulli, NorthWood – While teams overcompensated to cover Maddy Payne and NorthWood’s perimeter shooters, Kate Rulli quietly had a very productive season. Twin towers with Payne, Rulli would lead NorthWood in the regular season with 13 points and near seven rebounds per game. Rulli hit almost 60 percent of her shots and had four double-doubles, her best effort a 26-point, 13-rebound night against Wawasee. All four of those double-doubles came in Panther wins.
Casey Schroeder, Wawasee – Injuries played a role in the senior campaign of Schroeder, whose talent still allowed the guard to have a great season. Schroeder had a slow start to the year recovering from an offseason knee injury, but hit double figures in scoring in 11 of 19 contests played, and scored nearly a third of Wawasee’s total points this season, averaging 11 per night. Schroeder hit 30 three-pointers this year and drilled at least three seven times, and notched 20 total points in games against Norwell and Columbia City, 19 against Whitko and 18 points against Concord and Fairfield.
Sidney Wagner, Tippecanoe Valley – While DI prospect Sophie Bussard has grabbed headlines and with good reason, she’s still had a solid supporting cast around her, even if this year’s Vikings are mostly young. Sidney Wagner is part of the talented young crew, and the sophomore has done a bit of everything for Valley, intermittently running the point, setting up out front in the team’s defensive scheme, and just generally finding ways to contribute. Wagner owns seven points per game, tied for second on the team with Emma Craig, and is also second on the team in assists with 2.9 an outing and steals with 3.0 a game, both second to — you guessed it — Bussard. She seems to be getting more comfortable in her role headed into the postseason with three double-digit scoring outings prior to the Vikings’ narrow loss to Manchester in a low-scoring regular season-closer in Akron Jan. 24.
IFN Honorable Mention
Hayley Backus, Tippecanoe Valley; Jessi Calizo, Lakeland Christian Academy; Emma Craig, Tippecanoe Valley; Jaela Faulkner, Triton; Karlie Fielstra, NorthWood; Delanie Groves, Triton; Brielle Harrison, Warsaw; Kacilyn Krebs, Warsaw; Kaylee Patton, Warsaw; Neely Trenshaw, NorthWood; Makenzie Woodcox, Tippecanoe Valley; Caitlin Wortinger, Wawasee