WARSAW – There’s no secret that NorthWood runs on the power of its two bigs. If Tuesday night was any indication, future opponents will have much more to worry about.
NorthWood saw major moments from its role players in addition to its post contributions in a 43-38 girls basketball win over Warsaw at the Tiger Den. The contest marked the first time the two teams played in December since the days of the Northern Lakes Conference in-season tournament back in 2004.
The focus of most teams playing NorthWood tends to be on forwards Maddy Payne and Kate Rulli. Both were plenty involved, and plenty attended to by Warsaw. Payne had an off night per standards, shooting just 1-8 from the floor and 2-7 from the free throw line to end with four points and seven rebounds. Rulli, however, had 17 points and 14 rebounds, her final two tasks of the night put the game away. Pulling down her 10th offensive rebound of the night off a Reagan Hartman missed three, Rulli banked in the easy putback to put NorthWood up four at 42-38.
Rulli caught the inbounds pass and hit a free throw in the final seconds to salt away the game after Payne pulled down the rebound on Warsaw’s last gasp shot attempt.
“This was refereed like a 4A basketball game, like a 3A regional game is going to be officiated,” said NorthWood head coach Adam Yoder. “We have got to not put ourselves in a situation where we are feeling sorry for ourselves. There was a little spot where we started to play a little tentative, but the timeout they were so vocal with each other, ‘we are not losing this basketball game.’”
NorthWood’s edge in rebounding, 40-18, and 21-5 on the offensive glass was absolutely the difference in the game. In comparison, Warsaw’s answer to NorthWood’s post, Abby Sanner and Brielle Harrison, combined for just five points and five rebounds. Harrison fouled out of the game and Sanner had three fouls in the third quarter and had to back off defensively to stay in the game.
“We have to do a better job of our post people being active without fouling. Some of the fouls we got were from not being active and reacting instead of anticipating what was going on,” said Warsaw head coach Lenny Krebs. “When we got into foul trouble, we were down just one. We hadn’t played our best basketball up to that point.”
While the anticipated matchup inside between two of the bigger teams in the NLC had much of the attention, NorthWood’s ability to get contributions elsewhere could make for matchup problems going forward.
Bre Wise didn’t have a box score to write home about, scoring zero points on just one shot attempt with three fouls, three turnovers and four rebounds in 14 minutes of play. But two charges taken, several loose ball tie-ups and quality help defense had Yoder thrilled with his junior super-sub. Add in a huge three from Hartman in the fourth that put the Panthers up 38-33, and 13 points from Alea Minnich, including five straight points to open the second half.
“I thought Alea and Karlie (Fielstra) did a great job,” said Yoder, whose team hadn’t won at Warsaw since 2008. “Reagan’s three was absolutely huge. Emma Martz gave us good minutes. But I’ll tell you something, the girls who never flinches is Bre Wise. She brought some physicality we didn’t have. We had a great offensive third quarter, but defensively we were starting to show signs of weakness until she came into the ballgame. And that was huge.”
Kendall Wayne led Warsaw with nine points while Bailie Stephens and Kacilyn Krebs had eight points apiece. The Panthers achieved one of its primary goals in shutting down Kaylee Patton, who managed just five points on five shot attempts.
After starting its season 4-0, the Tigers have dropped five straight since losing point guard Kenzie Ryman to a shoulder injury.
“We have to find that balance of having an inside-outside game, and we don’t really have one right now,” Krebs said. “A lot of our outside game was just swinging the ball around the perimeter and taking shots after a few touches. Our post people are going to have to do a better job of kicking the ball out when seeing the double team coming, giving our shooters good looks. We have a few days to work on some things that we obviously need to work on.”
The JV game went to Warsaw in a 42-25 result.
NorthWood (6-2, 1-0 NLC) takes on Concord Thursday while Warsaw (4-5, 0-1 NLC) plays Fort Wayne Snider Saturday at Grace College.