WARSAW — Warsaw girls basketball coach Lenny Krebs isn’t afraid of the 3-point shot. And if the Lady Tigers keep shooting like they did in Saturday’s season-opener, he won’t need to be.
The home team let 14 triples fly and knocked down eight of them for a 57 percent conversion rate spread over five shooters, and Warsaw collected a 65-60 win over Class 3A, No. 4 Norwell at home at the Tiger Den.
“If you go back to Goshen records, I think you’ll find that teams I’ve coached have probably got the top 10 or 12 spots in 3-point field goals attempted. My goal is not to avoid them,” said Krebs. “We’re going to shoot them, and we’re going to develop the shooters who can shoot them. I feel like we’re getting closer to that. We’ve got enough people that someone is going to hit them along the way. I’m not a big gambling man, but I’m going to take a bet on the fact that we’ve got some shooters that can hit that shot. At the same time we’ve got an Abby Sanner, a Brielle Harrison, a Kaylee Patton who can go down low. I think that probably will cause some match-up issues if we can continue to shoot the way we shot tonight.”
Those hot hands from the perimeter were a big part of the reason for a 13-2 start by the Tigers, as Kacilyn Krebs, Brielle Harrison and Kaylee Patton all knocked down 3s during a 9-0 run that put the home team up by double digits with a full 2:32 still remaining in the opening period. The Knights answered back and whittled their deficit down to a single point three times the second frame, however, and were still within a single possession at halftime. The Tigers pushed their lead back out to 10 with a 9-1 start to the third quarter and grew that advantage to as many as 13 points before Norwell’s defensive pressure began to cue a number of Warsaw turnovers for some easy transition buckets in the fourth. But the Tigers never let their guests get out front, closing the game out with five unanswered points.
“I think to most people when a team gets over that hump and gets that one-point lead, that’s a big momentum swing. And we want to try to avoid that situation, but we’re preaching it’s not about the scoreboard, it’s about the current possession,” explained Krebs. “That’s what we talked about at halftime because at halftime they’d closed it to two. We talked about, you know, we’re not going to go out and watch the scoreboard and see what the score is. We’re going to play that current possession, Fortunately for us, we weren’t able to experience what happens when a team comes back and takes that lead. I pray we don’t experience it anytime soon, but we know it’s going to happen and the goal becomes let’s prepare for it and be ready for it to happen and just respond the same way we did tonight.”
Harrison paced Warsaw’s balanced offense with 16 points earned at an efficient 6-of-11 clip, and she clutched a game-high 11 rebounds. The Bethel recruit passed out five assists to boot.
“Brielle was huge. We were joking with her the other day because we do a lot of shooting drills in practice at times, and she’s never one of those kids that we’ve allowed to step back and shoot 3s. We finally said ‘You know what? We’re going to turn you loose. It’s your senior year; let’s start preparing you for that next level in the fact that you’re going to have to be a dual threat inside-outside,’” Krebs said. “When she knocked that 3 down from the corner (in the first quarter), that’s when she becomes a real threat because now with her quickness and her ability to get to the rim, she’s a tough match-up.”
Kacilyn put up 13 points, while Patton — returning for her senior season after sitting out the last nine games of last season with an ACL tear — score 10 points and dished out a game-high six assists before fouling out late. Sanner scored nine off the bench, Kendall Wayne finished with eight points and four steals, and Kensie Ryman chipped in eight points in a balanced scoring performance by the Tigers.
“We had a lot of balance, as far as we’ve got a lot of people who can score,” said Krebs. “I feel like from last year to this year we’ve had a lot of kids grow up. I think people forget that we had an awful lot of people getting their feet wet at the varsity level last year. Kenzie Ryman, Kendall Wayne, Kacilyn Krebs, Abby Sanner — we had a lot of people figuring it out.
“We’ve got a lot of weapons that we can utilize, and they always make a coach look good when they shoot well. Hopefully we’ll continue that.”
Norwell got a game-high 25 points from Kaylee Fuelling, Maiah Shelton scored 12 points with three assists, and Breann Barger notched nine points with four steals, who dipped to 1-1.
Warsaw opens at 1-0 and will play two games next week — a home game with Manchester Wednesday and the Tigers’ first road game at Tippecanoe Valley Friday night.
“I think this is going to be a big confidence boost for our kids as far as knowing that they can compete with the Norwells, with all the teams on our schedule. I am proud of these girls, but you can bet come Monday I’m not going to let them take Manchester lightly,” said Krebs. “We’re going to go back to work and know that we have to show up every single night. But getting off to a good start always sets a tone for a season. Getting that first ‘W’ under your belt is a good thing.”
Norwell did get the better of its hosts in Saturday’s JV match-up, however, winning 41-33. Hannah Hatfield scored 12 points, and Abby Taylor put up a double-double of 10 points with 12 rebounds to the lead the JV Tigers. Emily Todd scored 13, and Brielle Nunley added 11 for the JV Knights.