Winamac girls basketball preview: Lady Warrior senior core includes Kroft, Gearhart, Campbell
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
The Winamac girls basketball team lost Maggie Smith to graduation, which will deprive them of their all-time leader in rebounds and blocked shots.
Still, the style of play that Winamac was known for during Smith’s playing days will still be similar, according to coach Kole Kroft.
“We’ll be physical on defense still,” Kroft said. “The kicker is we don’t have anybody that’s going to get 14 rebounds a game, so we have to do it as a committee, and everybody’s got to hold their block outs and everybody’s got to attack the boards.”
But the challenge will be finding who can help on the boards as Winamac looks to improve on last year’s 11-9 record and win their first sectional since 2014.
Winamac has four seniors, including top scorer from last year Kingsley Kroft, Ella Gearhart, Kaya Campbell and Kate Collins. Collins is playing for the first time since middle school.
Kingsley Kroft is an adept 3-point shooter, but coach Kroft wants her focusing on defense.
“Obviously, we need her to score,” coach Kroft said. “We don’t have Aubrey (Gearhart) this year to get on someone that’s their good offensive player, so she’s going to have to pick up some of that. … She’s got to be fundamentally sound. She’s naturally an unselfish player. She’s got to score when it’s there, but she’s also got to create things for other people if they’re double-teaming her or denying her and not get frustrated and just her teammates.”
Coach Kroft said he envisions Campbell starting at point guard with “Little” Maggie Smith – this Maggie Smith is a sophomore guard who is not related to the 2021 grad Maggie Smith – helping out as a point guard and top defender. If “Little” Maggie Smith can progress as a player, then they can run Campbell off screens to get her some open looks, coach Kroft explained.
“She’s going to have to step it up defensively, and she’s going to have to take some perimeter players, and she’s going to have to lock down on them,” coach Kroft said.
Coach Kroft added that Ella Gearhart just wants to be the “ultimate teammate” and can help in multiple ways as a defender and rebounder.
“She’ll do whatever it takes,” coach Kroft said. “It doesn’t matter to her. She’ll do all the dirty work.”
Hailey Attinger and Chloe Rausch are the team’s two juniors. Attinger will be expected to be a top defender while coach Kroft envisions Rausch knocking down shots if opposing defenses key on Kingsley Kroft and Campbell.
“Hailey … we need her defense, and we need her to get every rebound,” coach Kroft said. “And just play physical. She’s a good athlete. She’s just got to stay aggressive and be confident. … Chloe, she’s very unselfish, and she’s going to just have to knock down some shots when she’s open because Kingsley and Kaya are going to get some attention.”
In addition to “Little” Maggie Smith, sophomores on the varsity include Piper Link and Lily Bennett.
“Piper can be gifted offensively,” coach Kroft said. “We need her to step up defensively and play with a little confidence because I think she’s got the talent definitely there to do that.”
Including Thursday’s season opener against Valparaiso, Winamac will play five of their first six games at home, but in December, they will play seven of their eight games away from home. That includes a tournament at Lake Central in which Winamac will play Mishawaka Marian, Lake Central and Indianapolis Cathedral plus a fourth opponent in a two-day span from Dec. 28-29.
WINAMAC LADY WARRIORS SCHEDULE (JV/VARSITY)
Nov. 4 – vs. Valparaiso, 6:30 p.m./8 p.m.
Nov. 9 – vs. Westville, 6:30 p.m./8 p.m.
Nov. 12 – at Argos, 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.
Nov. 13 – vs. Caston, 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.
Nov. 16 – vs. Culver, 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.
Nov. 18 – vs. North White, 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.
Nov. 20 – at Manchester, 6:15 p.m./7:45 p.m.
Nov. 27 – at Rochester, 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.
Nov. 30 – vs. West Central, 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.
Dec. 2 – at Rensselaer, 6:30 p.m./8 p.m.
Dec. 10 – at LaVille, 6:30 p.m. (varsity only)
Dec. 16 – vs. Tippecanoe Valley, 6:15 p.m./7:45 p.m.
Dec. 22 – at Western, noon/1:30 p.m.
Dec. 28 – vs. Mishawaka Marian, 11:30 a.m. (at Lake Central tournament)
Dec. 28 – vs. Lake Central, 4 p.m. (at Lake Central tournament)
Dec. 29 – vs. Indianapolis Cathedral, 10 a.m. (at Lake Central tournament)
Dec. 29 – vs. TBD (at Lake Central tournament)
Jan. 7 – vs. Knox, 6:30 p.m./8 p.m.
Jan. 11 – at Triton, 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.
Jan. 15 – at John Glenn, noon/1:30 p.m.
Jan. 18 – vs. Plymouth, 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.
Jan. 20 – vs. North Judson, 6:30 p.m./8 p.m.
Jan. 25 – vs. Pioneer, 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.
Jan. 27 – at Twin Lakes, 6 p.m./7:30 p.m.
Feb. 1-5 – Class 2A, Sectional 34 at Rensselaer
CLASS 2A, SECTIONAL 34
Boone Grove, Hebron, North Judson, North Newton, Rensselaer, South Central (Union Mills), Westville, Winamac