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Kroft, Popejoy, Smith score in double figures as Winamac wins opener

Stesiak after Lady Warriors force 29 turnovers: ‘We’ve got to get after people’


Sports Editor, RTC

Kandace Kroft

CHALMERS — The Winamac girls basketball team got their first win last season five days after Thanksgiving.

They got their first win this season on Halloween night.

Using both a 1-3-1 zone and trapping 2-3 zone, they spooked host Frontier into 29 turnovers and held them scoreless for nearly eight-and-a-half minutes in the first half. Meanwhile, starting guards Kandace Kroft, Sadie Popejoy and Maggie Smith all scored in double figures as Winamac rolled to a 53-22 win in the season opener for both teams Tuesday.

Winamac coach Tony Stesiak called timeout with 2:39 left in the first half and his team trailing 7-1. After the timeout, they went on a 23-0 run covering the first and second quarters, and they went on another 14-0 run covering the second and third quarters to build the lead to 38-10.

They led by as many as 33 points in the fourth quarter.

Stesiak said he noticed that Frontier seemed comfortable in a halfcourt game when he called the timeout in the first quarter. He told his players to speed the game up after that.

“The first two minutes were rough, the last couple minutes were rough,” Stesiak said. “In between that is where we really need to be. We’ve got to get after people. We can’t sit back and really play a lot of halfcourt basketball this year. I think we have the athleticism and the experience to dial it up, maybe not against every team. We’ve still got to be flexible, but this was a game, I thought, early on you could tell they didn’t want to really play very fast. I could tell by the first couple possessions. The game was slow, which I thought favored them. So once we were able to turn it up and get turnovers, that kickstarted our offense.”

Offensively, Winamac scored on their first three possessions after the timeout. Kroft hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key after an offensive rebound and then hit a pullup 15-footer. Smith drilled a 3 from the right wing, and Winamac had a 9-7 lead that they would never surrender.

“He basically just said that we needed to pick it up,” Kroft said. “Our energy was kind of down, so we just went out there and brought the best of it.”

Meanwhile, Popejoy, a freshman, hit a pair of 3-point rainmakers from beyond the arc as she outscored the entire Frontier team 8-3 in the second quarter.

Kroft and Popejoy would tie for game-high scoring honors with 12 points each, and Smith added 11.

“Whereas last year, a lot was on Kroft with an inexperienced team, Popejoy doesn’t have to carry as much as Kroft did last year,” Stesiak said. “And I think Kandace can help her handle that freshman year, but to have that guard trio up top is really important for us this year.”

Piper Link worked the post for eight points, Marissa Iverson had six and Mershai Loehmer had four.

Haley Jay led Frontier with 10.

Defensively, Winamac attacked any ballhandler who gave up their dribble close to the sidelines.

“We’re actually really good at it,” Kroft said of the 1-3-1. “We’ve been working at another type of zone, our 2-3 trap. It’s been working really well so far.”

This was the first game involving an area team under the new team foul rules in which the one-and-one free throw has been eliminated and team fouls reset after every quarter. Neither team got into the bonus in any quarter, and the teams combined for 16 free throw attempts.

Winamac 53, Frontier 22

WINAMAC (53) (1-0)

Maggie Smith 4 0-0 11, Kandace Kroft 4 3-4 12, Sadie Popejoy 4 2-4 12, Lily Bennett 0 0-0 0, Piper Link 4 0-0 8, Brody Goodman 0 0-0 0, Mershai Loehmer 2 0-0 4, Lauren Bruce 0 0-0 0, Marissa Iverson 2 2-3 6, Kaelyn O’Connor 0 0-0 0, Cyaira Wolford 0 0-0 0

TEAM: 20 7-11 53

FRONTIER (22) (0-1)

Haley Jay 5 0-1 10, Kendall Bridwell 0 0-0 0, Katie Kennedy 1 0-0 2, Madyson Mears 2 0-1 4, Ashlyn Minniear 2 2-3 6, Summer Kremer 0 0-0 0, Grayce Noe 0 0-0 0, Jessika Kershner 0 0-0 0

TEAM: 10 2-5 22

Three-point field goals:

Winamac 6 (Smith 3, Popejoy 2, Kroft),

Frontier 0

Total fouls: Winamac 11, Frontier 10

Turnovers: Winamac 12, Frontier 29

Score by quarters

Winamac 11 21 10 11 – 53

Frontier 7 3 4 8 – 22

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