Before we get into breaking down the conference races in each of the four major Northeast Indiana conferences, Bounce wants to talk about some of those other teams who either sit independent of a conference or are in a conference but just not the SAC, NE8, ACAC or NECC.
The Tigers graduated their three leading scorers, all of whom are playing college basketball. Last year, they set a school record for defensive average and coach Lenny Krebs says that he never worried about how to stop scoring, but how to do more of it themselves, a philosophy that flips this season.
“I think we can put some points on the board, I just don’t know how well we can defend. We will be a completely different team and this will be evident in the style of basketball you will see on the court. This team doesn’t have a dominant post player like Abby Sanner or a pure shooter like Kacilyn Krebs,” Lenny Krebs said. “However, we have a group of playmakers who need some freedom to use their skill set. Therefore you are going to see us free them up offensively to just make some plays.”
Zoe Bergan and Ava Egolf will be leaned on to be leaders and help carry over some of the defensive principals that made Warsaw strong a year ago. Brooke Winchester and Abbey Peterson are expected to take bigger strides as sophomores after quality opening campaigns, while Leila Knepp will also play a bigger role. Again this year, to Warsaw’s benefit, their freshman class is pretty strong. Both Brooke Zartman and Joslyn Bricker could be big time players from the program for a long time.
“Many people outside our program may expect us to be down from the past four years, which includes a 24-4 record in conference, but we have a standard here and expect to compete for a championship,” Krebs said.
Player to Watch: Brooke Winchester
After a good freshman campaign, Winchester had a really good summer and could evolve into the next really good to great Warsaw player. She averaged 3.6 points and 2.5 rebounds per game last season, but she could really step into a higher role on the wing.
BLACKHAWK CHRISTIAN BRAVES
Three pretty quality performers return for a Braves team coming off a stellar 18-8 season. Allie Boyer is a huge return in the post and really gives Blackhawk Christian something to work off of with her presence in the post. Ema Kline and Aubrie Swain return as well giving the Braves quality threats on on three levels with Swain able to work inside/out quite a bit averaging 9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2 assists per game last season. Kenzie Kinnison, Addie Koehlinger, Delanie Kintz and Avery Elsworth also all return with some varsity experience.
“I am very excited about the potential of this group. We graduated a majority of our scoring from last season but we have a very balanced, hardworking and humble group of girls. Each one of them is using their gifts to fulfil their role on our team as well as encouraging each other,” said coach Steph Gongaware. “We had a very productive summer with some new faces stepping up in leadership and scoring roles. This will be a very special and fun group to watch. Our goal is to work as hard as we can to glorify God and use basketball as a platform to let Him work through us to accomplish His purpose”
Player to Watch: Ema Kline
She has gotten her feet wet more and more each season but now is a time that Kline can really step up into a bigger role after averaging 5.4 points last season. She is a gritty guard who can defend well and handle pressure. That will be important for the Braves.
LAKEWOOD PARK PANTHERS
The Panthers were a steady 9-13 last season, not bad after graduating one of the best players in program history in 2021 grad Chloe Jolloff. They will now lean on a young core that got quality experience last season, headed by sophomore Ava McGrade and junior Jade Carnahan. It will take some less experienced players stepping up as Grace Kamleiter and Sullivan Nolot do both return as well.
“I think we have a lot to grow on from last season. A good core group that got a lot of experience from last season. We will have to figure out how to replace Frannie Talarico’s (graduated) scoring and leadership as well as Maddy Beck’s (transferred) defense. Once we learn to play team defense and rebound, I think we will be a solid group,” said coach Jared Estep.
Two seniors will could be critical in leadership in Ali Van Dyken and Haley Brooks with other sophomores and freshmen expected to contribute.
Player to Watch: Ava McGrade
McGrade is coming off a great year where she averaged 11.8 points and 4 rebounds per game as a freshman. Her development will be critical in Lakewood Park’s chances to revitalize the small school program once again.
The Wildcats’ 6-17 record from a year ago may not be one that wows the casual fan but it was a one win team before coach Justin Jordan took the reigns two seasons ago and had not won six games since 2016-2017. It is a push in the right direction for a team that was young when Jordan took the helm and still has some youth now, but plenty of experience to go with it.
“We return a number of players with a lot of experience as well as three players who contributed 90 percent of the scoring from a season ago. I think we will surprise some people,” coach Justin Jordan said.
Back is leading scorer Kloe Krieg, who has developed significantly in here two years with lofty expectations. Krieg averaged 12.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game last season and has been the leader by example basically since she was a freshman. Her lead is a great one for Braisha Harrison to follow after a solid freshman campaign for the Wildcats at 9.9 points per game and Adryrianna Phillips, who put up 9.4 points and 3.2 rebounds, also as a freshman.
Whitko also returns three players for their senior seasons in Brooklyn Coburn, Nadia Rhoades and Kirsten Schipper who all saw some time last season.
Player to Watch: Braisha Harrison
Harrison developed into a quality threat handling the ball for the Wildcats last season as just a freshman. She got more and more confident throughout the year, a trait that Whitko should expect to rise this season that will really open up the offense for the entire team with her as a duel threat point guard.
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