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Greg Jones

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Warsaw girls echoing history

When it comes to Warsaw girls basketball, the school and its fans were spoiled from the get-go.

The Tigers won the first-ever IHSAA girls state title in 1976 and also won a title in 1978.

Since then, Warsaw teams over the years have tried to match that success.

So the Tigers’ 18-0 record this year is impressive, but not unprecedented (both state titles teams finished 22-0).

Warsaw is one of five girls teams in the state that are still without a loss. Interestingly, four of the five are in 4A.

“This has been a wonderful season so far,” Warsaw coach Michelle Harter said. “I knew this could be a special group of girls. They have just come out played as a team, really bonded, and are so unselfish.

“I knew this could be a very special team. I knew the potential that they had. 18-0? No, I would not have ever expected that, but I knew we could have a very successful season, and that this is a team that could do some pretty special things, and they are so far.”

The Tigers, who have clinched at least a tie for the Northern Lakes Conference title, are at NorthWood (16-3) on Saturday and at home vs. South Bend Riley (3-15) on Thursday for a chance at a perfect regular season.

The team already has the most wins in a season for the program since the 2003-04 4A state runner-up team went 26-3.

They are led by – well, everybody. The team can get production out of the starting five and key plays from the bench. A trio of players – seniors Lindsay Baker (12.4 points, 2.7 assists, 2.5 steals) and Jennifer Walker-Crawford (14.5 points, 6.3 rebounds) and junior Nikki Grose (11.4 points, 9.2 rebounds) – step up when needed.

Baker is headed to Toledo, while Walker-Crawford will play at Kentucky Wesleyan.

“It is really difficult if you have five players working together out on the floor, to stop all five,” Harter said. “Teams can focus on stopping one or two, but when you have other girls who step up at key times it is difficult for teams to figure out who they are going to stop.”

The Warsaw program has been here before, or at least close, when the 1989-90 team went undefeated in the regular season but lost in the regional in three overtimes to Columbia City.

Five previous Warsaw teams before this year’s unit have finished the regular season unbeaten.

This year, Warsaw has had only two games where the margin of defeat was not in double figures, and Tuesday’s 39-32 win at Elkhart Memorial was one of them. And the Tigers hadn’t beaten the Chargers in their last 13 attempts.

The postseason may be a different story, or maybe a different chapter for these Tigers.

“Teams look at how other teams did during the season, and they base what they are going to do on that,” Harter said. “It also can work the other way that we have confidence with some of the teams we are going to play that we have beat them, and we know the things we need to do. Maybe it puts a little bit of a target on your back because of the success you have had during the season, but it also can work the other way and give us an advantage with that confidence.”

Greg Jones is the high school sports editor for The Journal Gazette and has been covering sports in the Fort Wayne area since 1998. He can be reached by email; phone, 461-8224; or fax 461-8648.