The first four season under Coach Lenny Krebs have been nothing short of spectacular in the regular season for Warsaw.
The program has won at least 15 games every year under Krebs, including an 18-6 mark a season ago.
But success in the playoffs has eluded the Tigers in recent years, with the last sectional crown coming in 2015. With a mix of veterans and youngsters, Krebs is hoping this season not only continued regular-season success, but some postseason hardware as well.
The Tigers return three of their top six players and five of their top eight, including senior center Abby Sanner, who led the team in both points (9.8 ppg) and rebounds (8.5 rpg) last season.
Fellow seniors Kacilyn Krebs and Bailie Stephens provide more veteran presence in the starting lineup. Krebs averaged close to 9 points per contest while Stephens notched 6.6 points and 2.5 assists per game.
Combined, the senior trio gives Coach Krebs a good base with which to start the 2021-22 campaign.
“Kacilyn and Abby are both four-year varsity starters and Bailie is battle tested with three years of varsity experience,” Krebs said. “All three of these kids have spent a lot of time this off-season working on their game.
“These three kids will be our leaders and the ones we turn to when the game is on the line.”
But the Tigers did lose some production from a year ago. Guards Kensie Ryman and Kendall Wayne have graduated, taking with them a combined 14 points per game. Forward Audrey Grimm, who averaged 8 points and 4.8 rebounds, is also gone.
Enter junior guard/forward Zoe Bergan and sophomore forward Ava Wetzel into the lineup. Neither made much of an offensive impact last season, but Krebs feels they are ready to step into starting roles.
“Zoe adds length and quickness to our lineup,” Krebs said. “She will be able to take on a key role when it comes to defense and rebounding.
“Ava has a great motor and will be a key for us on both ends of the floor.”
As has been the case in area basketball with more and more prevalence, Warsaw will rely on some ninth graders to step up immediately.
Krebs believes he has a trio of freshmen who are ready for the big stage in Abbey Peterson, Brooke Winchester and Mia Jones. Peterson can fill a guard role while Winchester and Jones are each adept at the guard and forward positions.
The success of the Tigers season may come down to these three. Without their development, depth is incredibly thin. But if they can come off the bench and give the team some valuable minutes, the bench extends and Warsaw can go deeper with its personnel.
While offensively Krebs believes he has the complement of girls that can score, the defensive end of the floor has questions. Wayne and Grimm were the shut-down defenders for this team last season when they held teams to just 36 points per contest.
“We were very fortunate last year to have had two of those types of players last year,” Krebs said. “Someone will need to step up and embrace that role.”
Coach Krebs has continued the legacy of this program which was so successful in the mid 2010s under Coach Michelle Harter. The talent pool is deep and Warsaw is one of those in the area that has not had to cut freshman or JV teams due to lack of bodies.
While there were some key losses, the seniors stepping up have plenty of experience. They will not be affected by big road games in the Northern Lakes Conference and huge matchups in the playoffs.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Warsaw averaged just a touch above 48 points per contest last season. It was able to win 18 games with the combination of timely scoring and a suffocating defense.
How does that change this year? Can the Tigers find that same defensive intensity with some new faces? Or will the offense need to lead the way more?
BAILIE STEPHENS, SENIOR
The senior with loads of experience will move into the starting point guard role for the Tigers. Being handed the keys of an offense signifies a lot of trust between coach and player.
All of the games that Stephens has played in over the last three years are going to pay dividends as she directs the offense that will need to carry more of the load as the defense tries to find itself.
JAN. 8 VS. NORTHRIDGE
Following the holiday break, Warsaw will return to the court on Jan. 8 against league for Northridge, a team that won 16 games and beat Warsaw in the regular season a year ago.
The Tigers returned the favor in sectional play, but a NLC crown could very well go through the Raiders again.
Considering this is the first of four conference games over the space of 14 days, a solid start to the 2022 calendar and a run of league contests would be solid.