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  • Val T.

Iverson’s 16 leads 3 in double figures as Winamac tops Pioneer

Strycker leads Lady Panthers with 13


Sports Editor, RTC

Piper Link

WINAMAC — Marissa Iverson scored a game-high 16 points in a rare starting assignment to lead three players in double figures, and the Winamac girls basketball team ended a three-game losing streak overall and a four-year losing streak to Pioneer with a 52-29 win at home Tuesday.

Sadie Popejoy hit three 3-pointers and added 13 points, and Piper Link had 10 for Winamac, who improved to 12-8 overall and finished Hoosier North play 3-4.

Winamac also welcomed back point guard Kandace Kroft, who missed Thursday’s home loss to North Judson with what coach Tony Stesiak called a “lower body injury.” Kroft came off the bench this time and scored four points, all on free throws, in the second quarter.

Makenna Strycker scored 13 points, and Mia McKaig had 10 for Pioneer, which fell to 5-14, 0-6.

The teams could meet again in a Class 2A, Sectional 36 semifinal at North Miami on Feb. 2. First, Winamac will have to beat Wabash in their quarterfinal game next Tuesday. Pioneer received a bye into the semifinals.

In this game, Pioneer scored the first basket of the second half on a Kynzie Hathaway short banker off a Strycker assist, but Winamac followed with a 7-0 run to go up 36-19.

Iverson scored in the post and then scored again off a Popejoy assist. Smith then hit a 3-pointer to complete the run.

Makenna Strycker

“They did a good job,” Pioneer coach Adam Berry said. “We were stressing taking away the high post, which kind of brought our bottom wing up a little bit. They came up a little bit too high in the first half, and they were doing a great job of finding her down low, and she took advantage of that and did a great job of putbacks and things like that.”

Winamac often put Link in the high post spot against Pioneer’s zone and her dump the ball to Iverson on a high-low play.

“I just had the height advantage,” Iverson, a sophomore post, said. “So it was easy for them to lob me the ball. … (Piper) is a good passer, and we have that connection built from practices and all the games.”

Stesiak said it gave the Winamac offense a lot of “versatility” to go with shooters like Popejoy, Kroft, Maggie Smith and Corrine Ulerick.

“I think she’s warming up to that idea,” Stesiak said when asked if Iverson is becoming a go-to scorer. “I told her a couple games ago when I put her in the starting lineup, I said, ‘My plan is for you to be there until the day you graduate. Just take it and run with it.’ She’s played starter minutes; she just hasn’t gotten introduced. But to try to vary our lineup up a little bit and work on our rotations later on in the game, I wanted to put her out there. And she’s earned it. She’s a walking double-double now, and she and Link are working so well together.”

Popejoy, Winamac’s freshman sharpshooter, hit two treys and outscored the entire Pioneer team 8-5 in the fourth quarter.

“Basically, our looks are, if you’ve got an open shot, let it fly,” Stesiak said. “If not, you’re looking inside. And your third option is to drive it. That’s what we’re looking for. They’ve done a good job, especially if you see some of these zones, of working the ball, and if you have to guard five people, it’s hard to defend.”

Winamac mixed a 2-3 zone, a 1-3-1 zone and a triangle-and-two defense with individual defenders focusing on Strycker and McKaig.

“Obviously a great coach that’s been around the game and won some big ballgames and knows what he’s doing,” Berry said of Stesiak. “They did a good job. The good thing about us is no matter what the defense is, our rules don’t really change too much, so that’s a nice thing about our offense is really our actions and things like that are the same no matter what the defense is. You know, when we were patient and when we’re making the easy pass and when we weren’t rushing, I thought we got some quality looks that we just didn’t hit.

“In the first half, I don’t know how many shots we had right around the rim that didn’t go in. It’s hard to win a lot of ballgames if you can’t put the ball in the hoop. But once again, it wasn't due to lack of effort. When we settled down, we got good looks. They just didn’t fall.”

Popejoy said the team had only practiced once in the last five days. She said she was “a little rusty” but she “found it” in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, she was often on the same side of the court defensively when Strycker had the ball.

“Just keep her off the 3-point line,” Popejoy said of the defense. “And take her changes when she starts driving, so that was pretty much our game plan.”

Winamac scored the first five points and never trailed.

Pioneer hung within 13-10 on a Casey Webb free throw with 6:37 left in the half, but Iverson’s 3-point play and a Popejoy triple pushed the lead to nine.

Two Kroft free throws with 2:25 left in the half got the lead to double digits for the first time, and a Link layup made it 27-14.

Winamac 52, Pioneer 29

PIONEER (29) (5-14, 0-6)

Makenna Strycker 5 1-4 13, Mia McKaig 5 0-0 10, Lois Layer 0 0-0 0, Kynzie Hathaway 1 0-0 2, Gracie Hopper 0 0-0 0, Casey Webb 0 1-2 1, Julia McGrew 0 0-0 0, Jocelyn Kain 1 0-0 3, Hannah Zeigler 0 0-0 0

TEAM: 12 2-6 29

WINAMAC (52) (12-8, 3-4)

Maggie Smith 1 0-0 3, Sadie Popejoy 5 0-0 13, Piper Link 3 4-4 10, Lily Bennett 1 1-2 3, Marissa Iverson 7 2-5 16, Kandace Kroft 0 4-5 4, Brody Goodman 0 0-0 0, Kaelyn O’Connor 0 0-0 0, Corinne Ulerick 1 0-0 3, Cyaira Wolford 0 0-0 0

TEAM: 18 11-16 52

Three-point field goals:

Pioneer 3 (Strycker 2, Kain),

Winamac 5 (Popejoy 3, Smith, Ulerick)

Total fouls: Pioneer 18, Winamac 9

Turnovers: Pioneer 15, Winamac 17

Score by quarters

Pioneer 7 10 7 5 29

Winamac 11 18 10 13 52

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