Knafel Hits The Mark, Wawasee Misses The Target

KiLee Knafel

Wawasee’s KiLee Knafel drives up court against Indianapolis Brebeuf during Saturday’s Norwell Shootout. Knafel scored 42 points during the two-game event for Wawasee, moving her into second place all-time in Wawasee basketball scoring. (Photos by Nick Goralczyk)

OSSIAN — The Norwell Shootout was a rough one for the current Wawasee girls basketball team but a historic day for the ladies program.

The girls dropped both games in the Shootout Saturday, losing to Indianapolis Brebeuf, 47-34, in the morning session and to host Norwell, 47-29, in the nightcap.

The highlight of the tournament for the Lady Warriors was what would prove to be a historic day for senior KiLee Knafel.

Knafel entered the day needing 26 points to pass 2009 Wawasee graduate Taylor Goshert’s 1,407 career points for second all-time (boys or girls) at Wawasee High School.

The senior started her day out well against Brebeuf. The Braves had no answers for Knafel as she scored 17 first-half points, 12 of which came in the first quarter. It looked as if the senior would pass Goshert by the end of her first game of the day. But Knafel would only manage four second-half points, all on free throws, to finish leading all scorers with 21 points. Knafel would need just five points in the nightcap showdown with 3A No. 2 Norwell to move to number two at Wawasee.

After a scoreless first quarter, Knafel would jump start her team with a three-point bucket early in the second quarter to bring her within one point of tying Goshert. Around the five and a half minute mark in the second quarter, Knafel faked out Norwell’s Madison Stinson at the arc, drove down and sank a four-foot jumper to give her 1,408 career points. The total is only bested by Wawasee and Indiana state legend Shanna Zolman’s 3,085 career points. Knafel would finish her second game of the day with another 21 points, giving her 42 points scored on the day and 1,424 thus far in her Lady Warrior career.

Following the game against Norwell, a very humble Knafel would speak briefly about her historic day. But throwing all achievements aside, the competitor inside of the future IUSB Lady Titan took no time to shine through.

“I think it’s a great accomplishment, I really do. But, I would much rather have gotten a win today. What’s important right now is improving as a team. I’m really just looking forward to getting better together,” expressed Knafel.

The Lady Warrior captain was able to offer some insight on what went wrong at Norwell Saturday as well. “I think that we just need to focus and execute better. We just have to follow our game plan and keeping staying focused on what we need to do. Yes, we did some good things, but there is always something we can improve on,” stated Knafel.

That last quote from Knafel may help support the sentiment from her coach, Kem Zolman, who expressed his thoughts on Knafel’s career at Wawasee.

“Two things should be taken away from something like this,” stated the coach. “One is that this is really a testament for the teammates KiLee has played with over the years, for getting her screens and getting her open looks.

“The second thing that should never be overlooked is how much work that young lady has put in the gym. Hours with us at the gym, hours after practice shooting. All the time she has spent practicing with her dad. Hours and hours with her dad. There has just been a ton of time that has been put in.”

Zolman would later continue to emphasize how important that time is, “That’s the main thing I want get across. I think in today’s society we just look at the end result. The bottom line is if you put that much time in, it will pay off.”

Zolman would finish with a pat on the back for his senior, “She has built herself a base with her work ethic and I am just tickled to death for her. It’s quite an honor to be placed in that category for both boys and girls.”

Wawasee guards Erin Wiktorowski (34) and Kylee Rostochak wrestle for a loose ball with Norwell's Liara Isnogle.

Wawasee guards Erin Wiktorowski (34) and Kylee Rostochak wrestle for a loose ball with Norwell’s Liara Isnogle.

Unfortunately for Zolman, Knafel’s 21 points was just not enough in either game to bring home a win. The Lady Warrior had an impressive first half against Brebeuf and took a 28-23 lead into the locker room. But the team that came out for the second-half was hardly recognizable.

A dismal second half  in which it only scored a total of six points. Two points came in the third quarter and the other four in the fourth, all on free throws. The Lady Warriors missed all 11 of their second-half shot attempts to finish the game 11 of 29 overall. Brebeuf (7-6) were led to victory by Anna Imhoff and Savannah Davis who tallied 17 points and 14 points, respectively.

Norwell (10-2) entered the second game coming off of a sloppy but thrilling 31-30 victory over Wawasee rival, Plymouth (8-4), earlier in the day. Plymouth bested Brebeuf in the first of the two evening sessions.

Wawasee senior Cassie Martinez was the only player that could get anything going in the first quarter as she scored all five of her team’s points in the frame, but only trailed 6-5 after the first quarter. Knafel would come to life in the second by scoring 11 of her game high 21 points. Martinez would another bucket to give the Lady Warriors another halftime advantage, this time an 18-14 lead.

But just like in the earlier game, Wawasee fell flat in the second-half. The third quarter was again the killer for the ladies. Wawasee took only three shots, with Knafel making the only one on a three-point ball. The Lady Warriors also committed nine turnovers in the quarter which led to eight of Norwell’s 16 points. Wawasee did not fare much better in the fourth quarter as the team only put up eight points which paled in comparison to their opponents 17. The loss is the fifth straight Wawasee loss to Norwell and the Lady Warrior’s fifth straight loss this season.

Wawasee's Natalie Jones looks for a passing lane around Norwell's Laken Chaney.

Wawasee’s Natalie Jones looks for a passing lane around Norwell’s Laken Chaney.

After the game Zolman expressed that his young team is still learning how to finish games.

“Youth. We have three seniors that have some experience and they are doing their best to lead and bring the young ones along, that’s just all part of it,” Zolman stated. “Is it any one person’s fault? Is it anything we are doing wrong? No. It’s just the maturation of a team.”

Zolman would bring some nostalgia into the interview, “Is this the first time I’ve seen this? No, not at all. When Shanna was a sophomore we started two sophomores and three freshmen and then that year we won our first sectional. But we went through stuff like this.” Zolman would wrap up with making a simple statement, “If this is what you have then that’s what you play with.”

Zolman and the Lady Warriors fall to 6-5 on the season after Saturday’s tournament and looks forward to getting back into Northern Lakes Conference play when they welcome in NorthWood this Saturday. NorthWood and Wawasee have a rivalry that runs deep in all sports but none is more intense than the one the two girls basketball team’s share.

The two programs have combined for 10 sectional titles since the 2000-2001 season. In that same period the two teams have met 21 times, including sectionals, with Wawasee holding a 13-9 advantage. Wawasee will look to avenge a 49-18 blowout loss in Nappanee from last season. Tip-off is set for approximately 7:30 p.m. in Syracuse.

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