AKRON — Through the first two games of the season, Warsaw shooters were knocking down 3-pointers at a better than 56 percent clip. But while the Lady Tigers may have lived by the 3-point shot over that 2-0 start, they certainly didn’t die by it when those shots started drying up at Tippecanoe Valley Saturday.
Warsaw came down to earth with a 7-of-22 conversion rate from beyond the arc in Akron, but 6’2” sophomore power forward Abby Sanner made up for it on the inside, finishing with 17 rebounds and 21 points and leading the Tigers to a 64-53 win over the host Vikings in their first road game of the season.
“Believe it or not, we talk about that inside-out balance more than you guys probably think we do. But when you shoot 60 percent, that balance kind of tilts towards that outside,” explained Warsaw coach Lenny Krebs. “We were a little slow learning tonight that we weren’t hitting from outside, but we had that opportunity to throw it inside. It also took Abby a little while to realize that she had a true advantage, and we were going to keep looking for her.”
Sanner’s 21 points off the bench tied her career-high output at Concord last season. Of her 17 rebounds Saturday, 11 of them came on the offensive end for a number of putbacks as Warsaw finished with 16 second-chance points at Valley.
“We’ve always known that she was there. We’ve been trying to motivate her a little bit to perform like she’s capable of, and tonight we finally saw that,” said Krebs. “We put ourselves in position — 19 3s I think it was in the first half, and we finally learned that we have other weapons, we have other things that we can do. We started going inside to Abby, and she rewarded the girls with some nice play on the inside.”
“You can’t teach 6’2” and the strength that she has. I don’t think she understands how good she is capable of really being,” he added.
“Sanner looks like she’s about 6’5”. I know she’s not 6’5”, but she sure looks like she’s 6’5”,” said Vikings coach Chris Kindig.”She gets the ball two feet from the basket, turns around, it’s tough to defend that.”
The Vikings didn’t have an answer for her. Their own big — 6’1” junior Haley Backus — came into the match-up averaging 17.5 points per game but was whistled for her second foul against Sanner at only the 3:46 stop of the first quarter. As a result, Backus’ playing time was somewhat limited, and she never seemed to really get into the flow of Valley’s offense, finishing with just three points, although she did pull down seven rebounds for the Vikings. Fellow junior Sidney Wagner notched a game-high 24 points to go with seven rebounds and three assists, however, her old-fashioned three-point play on a slashing drive to the basket and Kendall Wayne foul knotting the game up at 34-34 at the 1:49 stop of the third period before Warsaw began pulling away in the fourth.
“Nice player. She’s an inside-outside threat. We knew that from watching her play Bremen,” said Krebs. “I think with Bremen, she filled up the stat sheet pretty well as well. We knew that that was going to happen. Kudos to her. She’s going to be a threat. She’s a junior, and we’re going to have to figure out a way to defend her even better next year. She’s going to improve. Nice player.”
“She played that well this summer, and she’s come along that far from where she was last year,” said Kindig of Wagner. “Now, we’ve been getting Backus, another junior, she’s really played well, but obviously when she’s matching up against their post player, she had her hands full defensively. But it was nice to see Jillian Walls get going. We’ve still got to get Corinna Young some baskets. Emma Craig is capable of giving up double-doubles at times. There’s a lot of room for growth here.”
After a back-and-forth first quarter that saw five lead changes, the Tigers began to space it out with an 8-0 start to the second period featuring a pair of spot-up 3s from Kaylee Patton and Kacilyn Krebs. A Sanner lay-in off a Brielle Harrison helper with just 55 seconds remaining in the half gave Warsaw a 29-18 lead, and the visitors never trailed again. Valley didn’t go away, though.
Walls knocked down a pair of long jumpers to cue a quick, 10-3 start to the third, whittling the Vikings’ deficit to just a point at the 4:28 stop of the clock. They hovered right around there until Wagner tied it up with her three-point play late in the period. But the Tigers gradually pulled away with a Sanner putback and a pair of 3s from Kensie Ryman in the fourth, finally stretching their lead back to double figures on a Sanner to Harrison over-the-top assist with a little more than two minutes remaining.
“We talked before the game about pace. This game needed to be played at our pace. At times it was, and at other times we let that get away from us,” Kindig explained. “Especially there in the middle of that second quarter. It’s a fairly close game, and they went on that 8-0 run, and all of a sudden you’re looking up and you’re down 11 or 12 points. It’s tough to try to make that up. We did it fairly quickly there in the third quarter, but it’s just one of those things where you give Warsaw credit — they hit some shots and got some offensive rebounds. They play hard, they’re well-coached, and you’ve got to play pretty well to beat them.”
“We’ve got plenty of things we need to fix. I’m not even going to go into that with the girls right now. Our only comment was that we needed an opportunity to play on the road, in a tough environment away from the Tiger Den and see how we could handle a team pressuring us for 32 minutes, to win the game. It wasn’t always pretty, but we found a way to continue to battle, continue to fight, continue to win.”
Three players finished in double figures for Warsaw led by Sanner’s big double-double, as Ryman notched 13 on 3-of-5 field shooting, and Kacilyn Krebs knocked down 5-of-6 free throws on her way to 10 points. The Tigers shared the ball for 13 assists on 20 made shots, including four by Ryman and there by both Krebs and Patton, who also put up eight points for Warsaw, which stayed unbeaten at 3-0.
Valley got double-digit production from two players in Wagner and Walls, the latter of whom tallied 14 points. Craig scored seven points with three steals and three assists for the Vikings, who dipped to a 2-1 start.
Warsaw will play at Wabash next Friday, while Valley hosts Logansport next Thursday.
Meanwhile Saturday, Warsaw’s junior varsity won its game with Valley, 50-35.
Abby Tayler put up 13 points, and Marian Hart added 12 for the JV Tigers. Lauren Grose scored seven points with nine rebounds, while Bergan finished with eight caroms.
Molly Moriarty paced the Valley JV with 12 points, and Rily Holloway and Corina Stiles finished with eight points apiece.